Russia on Saturday reported a record number of new coronavirus infections as authorities hope to stem the rising contagion by keeping most people off work for the next week
The government’s coronavirus task force reported 40,251 new infections in 24 hours, exceeding the previous record 40,096 reported on Thursday. It said 1,160 people died of the virus over the past day, three fewer than the record set a day earlier.
That brought Russia’s official COVID-19 death count to 237,380, by far the largest in Europe. More than 8.47 million infections have been recorded in the country of 146 million during the pandemic.
The task force counts only deaths directly caused by the virus. The state statistics service Rosstat, which counts COVID-19 deaths by wider criteria, released figures Friday indicating a much higher toll.
Rosstat counted 44,265 deaths in September caused directly by the virus, or in which it was a contributing cause or of patients believed to have been infected. That would bring Russia’s pandemic-long death toll to about 461,000 as of the end of September, nearly twice the task force’s count.
Infections and death have risen sharply since mid-September.
To contain the spread of infection, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a nonworking period from Oct. 30 to Nov. 7, when most state agencies and private businesses are to suspend operations. He encouraged Russia’s worst-hit regions to start sooner, and some ordered most residents off work earlier this week.
Moscow introduced the measure beginning Thursday, shutting down kindergartens, schools, gyms, entertainment venues and most stores, and restricting restaurants to takeout or delivery. Food stores, pharmacies and companies operating key infrastructure remained open.
Access to museums, theaters, concert halls and other venues in Russia is limited to people holding digital codes on their phones to prove they have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19, a practice that will remain after Nov. 7. Unvaccinated people older than 60 have been ordered to stay home.
The government hopes that by keeping most people out of offices and public transportation, the nonworking period will help curb the spread of the virus, but many Russians rushed to use the time off for a seaside Black Sea vacation or to take a trip to Egypt or Turkey.
Authorities have blamed soaring infections and deaths on Russia’s lagging pace of vaccinations. About 51 million Russians — just over a third of the country’s people — were fully vaccinated as of Saturday.
Russia was the first country in the world to authorize a coronavirus vaccine in August 2020 and proudly named the shot Sputnik V to showcase the country’s scientific edge. But the vaccination campaign has stalled amid widespread public skepticism blamed on conflicting signals from authorities.