Russia, Ukraine struggling with surging COVID-19 cases
The Associated Press · Posted: Oct 29, 2021 8:43 AM ET | Last Updated: October 30
The Russian capital has started a non-working period intended to stem coronavirus infections as daily cases and deaths from COVID-19 surged to all-time highs. Kindergartens, schools, gyms, entertainment venues and most stores are closed, and restaurants and cafés can provide only takeout or delivery service (Pavel Golovkin/The Associated Press)
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Russia on Friday recorded another record of daily coronavirus deaths as authorities hoped to stem contagion by keeping most people off work.
The government’s coronavirus task force reported 1,163 deaths in 24 hours, the largest daily number since the pandemic began. The latest deaths brought the total toll to 236,220, by far the highest in Europe.
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 on Friday indicating a much higher toll.
Rosstat counted 44,265 deaths in September directly caused by the virus or in which it was a contributing cause. 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.
Either death figure places Russia among the worst-hit countries in the world during the pandemic.
To contain the spread of infection, Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a non-working period from Oct. 30 to Nov. 7, when most state organizations 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 starting from Thursday, shutting kindergartens, schools, gyms, entertainment venues and most stores, and restricting restaurants and cafes to only takeout or delivery. Food stores, pharmacies and companies operating key infrastructure remained open.
Access to museums, theatres, concert halls and other venues is limited to people holding digital codes on their smartphones to prove they have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19, a practice that will remain in place after Nov. 7. Unvaccinated people older than 60 have been ordered to stay home.
A museum security officer, right, scans a QR code to confirm visitors’ vaccination status at the entrance of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow on Thursday. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/The Associated Press)
The number of new daily cases in Russia rose by 39,849 on Friday, just below an all-time record reported the previous day. The government hopes that by keeping most people out of offices and public transportation, the non-working period would help curb the spread, but many Russians rushed to use the surprise time off for a seaside vacation in the country’s south or to take a trip to Egypt or Turkey.
Record case numbers in Ukraine
Ukraine’s president, meanwhile, on Friday pleaded with citizens to get vaccinated quickly as daily infections soared to another all-time high, fuelled by a slow vaccine uptake.
The Health Ministry reported 26,870 new confirmed infections in 24 hours — the highest level since the start of the pandemic. It recorded 648 daily deaths to bring the pandemic death toll to 66,852.
Authorities blamed the surge in infections and deaths on a low level of vaccination. Just 16.4 per cent of people in the nation of 41 million are fully vaccinated — the second-lowest rate in Europe after Armenia’s seven per cent.
The slow pace of vaccinations in Ukraine and other countries of Eastern Europe has been blamed on public distrust of authorities that has contributed to the broad spread of disinformation and conspiracy theories about vaccines.