Monday, 23 May, 2022

Russia sees record daily virus cases

MOSCOW: Russia on Friday reported a record number of new coronavirus infections over the previous 24 hours, a government tally showed, with officials warning of surging cases driven by the Omicron variant, reports AFP. 

A government website reported 49,513 new infections in Russia, which is already one of the world's worst-hit countries by caseload, surpassing the previous record set in November of 41,335.

Cases across Russia have risen sharply in recent days, with authorities predicting an imminent surge due to the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned last week that the country had two weeks to prepare for a surge, calling for more testing and vaccinations.

The new record came a day after Moscow -- the epicentre of the outbreak in Russia -- said it had seen its highest number of new cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

Following a strict -- but brief -- national lockdown in the beginning of the pandemic, Russia has held back on curbs to protect its struggling economy.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday that during a recent meeting, Putin and Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin did not discuss the possibility of introducing a new lockdown in Moscow.

Sobyanin had said earlier this week there would be no new restrictions in Moscow so long as hospitals were able to cope with numbers of virus-related patients.

The Kremlin said Putin had not dipped into icy waters as part of Orthodox celebrations for Epiphany, adhering to guidance from church leaders.

The developers of Russia's flagship vaccine, Sputnik V, said this week that its jab demonstrated "strong protection" against Omicron, pointing to a study carried out by the Spallanzani Institute in Italy.

Putin has previously said that Sputnik V could possibly be "more effective" than Western-developed jabs.

With several vaccines widely available for months, Russians remain reluctant to get jabbed, with just under half of the population fully vaccinated.

Russian government figures have reported 324,752 deaths from Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic -- the highest death toll in Europe.

Those figures are contradicted by state statistics agency Rosstat, which counts Covid deaths under a broader definition and says the overall death toll is close to double the official figure.

Globally, Russia has the fourth highest number of virus-related fatalities, according to an AFP tally, after the United States, Brazil and India.

The pandemic is also driving a demographic crisis in Russia. In 2020, the population shrank by 510,000 people -- the sharpest decline in 15 years, Rosstat calculated.