Moscow begins non-work period as infections and deaths skyrocket
MOSCOW (AP) – The Russian capital began a period of non-work on Thursday aimed at stemming coronavirus infections as daily new cases and deaths from COVID-19 hit record levels.
The government coronavirus task force reported 1,159 deaths in 24 hours, the largest daily tally since the start of the pandemic. This brought the official coronavirus death toll in the country to 235,057, by far the highest in Europe.
The number of new daily cases increased by 40,096, surpassing a previous record reached earlier this week.
In an attempt to contain the spread, Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a period of non-work from October 30 to November 7, when most state organizations and private companies must cease operations. He encouraged the worst-affected regions to start it earlier, and some introduced the measure earlier this week.
Moscow followed on Thursday, closing most shops, kindergartens, schools, gymnasiums and entertainment venues and allowing restaurants and cafes to open only for take-out or delivery. Food stores, pharmacies and businesses operating key infrastructure remained open.
Access to museums, theaters, concert halls and other venues is limited to people with digital codes on their smartphones to prove they have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19, a practice that will remain in place after November 7. .
Putin also called on local authorities to close nightclubs and other entertainment venues and ordered unvaccinated people over the age of 60 to stay in their homes.
The government hopes the non-work period will help curb the spread by preventing most people from accessing offices and public transport, but many Russians have been quick to take advantage of the time for a seaside vacation before the long winter season.
Concerned authorities in southern Russia have decided to shut down entertainment venues and limit access to restaurants and bars to avoid a spike in infections. Sales of package tours to Egypt and Turkey also jumped.
Authorities blamed the growing contagion and deaths on the delayed rate of vaccination. Only around 49 million Russians – about a third of the country’s nearly 146 million people – are fully immunized.
Russia was the first country in the world to authorize a coronavirus vaccine in August 2020, proudly naming the Sputnik V shot after the first man-made satellite to showcase the country’s scientific prowess. But the vaccination campaign collapsed amid widespread public skepticism blamed on mixed signals from authorities.
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic