Russia hits a new record for COVID-19 infections this year

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Russia’s daily coronavirus infections soared Thursday to their highest level so far this year, as authorities have struggled to control a surge in new cases amid a slow pace in vaccinations and with few restrictions in place.

The daily COVID-19 death toll exceeded 900 for a second straight day, with 924 new deaths reported Thursday — a day after reaching a record 929.

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Russia already has Europe’s highest death toll in the pandemic — topping 213,000 — and the authorities' conservative way of recording COVID-19 fatalities suggests the actual number could be even higher.

On Thursday, the government's coronavirus task force reported 27,550 new confirmed cases, a nearly 10 percent rise from the previous day. New infections in Moscow soared by nearly 50 percent to 5,404.

A quick rise in infections and deaths began in late September, with authorities blaming it on the low vaccination rate. As of Tuesday, almost 33 percent of Russia’s 146 million people had received at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine, and 29 percent were fully vaccinated.

But the Kremlin has shrugged off the idea of imposing a new nationwide lockdown, delegating the power to tighten restrictions to regional authorities.

Some regions have limited attendance at large public events and restricted access to theaters, restaurants and other places to people who have been vaccinated, recently recovered from COVID-19 or tested negative in the previous 72 hours.

In some areas, Russia’s vast yet severely underfunded health care system has started to show signs of being overwhelmed by the outbreak.

Russian media have reported long lines of ambulances once again forming in front of hospitals in St. Petersburg. And on Tuesday, the presidential envoy in the Ural Mountains district — a part of central Russia that encompasses six regions — said 95 percent of the hospital beds for COVID-19 patients there have been filled.

Overall, Russia’s coronavirus task force has registered nearly 7.7 million confirmed cases and 213,549 deaths. However, reports by Russia’s state statistical service Rosstat that tally coronavirus-linked deaths retroactively reveal significantly higher mortality numbers.

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