Moscow gripped by growing Covid catastrophe: Russian capital records 144 deaths in 24 hours with officials blaming Indian variant for sweeping through vaccine-sceptic population
- Moscow is seeing surge in Covid-19 cases that authorities blame on Delta variant
- Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said variant represents 90% of new infections
- Steep rise in cases has meant officials are urging vaccine-sceptical Russians to get innoculated
Moscow on Sunday recorded 144 Covid-19 deaths in the last 24 hours, the worst toll in a Russian city since the start of the pandemic, according to official data.
The capital is seeing a surge in infections that authorities blame on the highly transmissible Delta variant and slow progress on the vaccination drive, with 6,723 new cases recorded on Sunday.
Moscow has been the national epicentre of the pandemic and some 2,000 people are hospitalised daily because of the virus there, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said late on Saturday in televised remarks.
‘We have mobilised 20,000 beds and 14,000 of them are currently filled,’ he said. ‘That’s a lot.’
Medical workers treat a patient at a temporary COVID-19 facility in Moscow on June 25
Doctors in protective gear check on patients in an intensive care unit at Moscow City Clinical Hospital No 15 on June 23
Infections have surged in Moscow and the capital accounts for nearly half of all Russia’s cases
Mr Sobyanin said cases of the Delta variant, which was first detected in India, were on the increase in the city and represents 90 per cent of new infections.
‘To drastically solve the issues, you need people to get vaccinated or head to lockdowns and shut down everything,’ he told state TV.
Moscow’s record daily death toll comes a day after Euro 2020 host Saint Petersburg set another depressing record of 107 deaths.
Dozens of Finland supporters caught coronavirus in Saint Petersburg after they travelled to the city last week for their team’s defeat against Belgium.
The city is set to host a quarter-final match on Friday in front of thousands of fans.
Country-wide, 599 people died in Russia of coronavirus over the past 24 hours, bringing the national official toll to 133,282. Some 20,538 new infections were also recorded, bringing the national total to 5.4 million.
The steep rise in infections in Russia comes as officials push vaccine-sceptical Russians to get inoculated, after lifting most anti-virus restrictions late last year.
Medical workers carry a patient suspected of having coronavirus on a stretcher at a hospital in Kommunarka, outside Moscow, on June 26
What are the main variants recognised by the WHO?
First spotted: Kent
Scientific name: B.1.1.7
First spotted: South Africa
Scientific name: B.1.351
First spotted: India
Scientific name: P.1
First spotted: India
Scientific name: B.1.617.2
‘To stop the pandemic, one thing is needed: rapid, large-scale vaccinations. Nobody has invented any other solution,’ Mr Sobyanin told state-run television on Saturday.
Epidemiologists say the Sputnik V vaccine is capable of dashing the mutant strain but with only 13 per cent of Russians having received a first dose, removing lockdown restrictions remains precarious.
The Kremlin last week blamed a surge in Covid-19 cases on ‘nihilism’ and reluctance to have vaccinations.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said President Vladimir Putin was monitoring the situation closely.
Asked to explain the surge in cases, Peskov blamed the virus’s ‘cunning nature’, a reference to its mutations, as well as ‘total nihilism, and the low vaccination level’.
At a briefing, he rejected the idea, posited by some critics, that Russians were reluctant to have vaccinations because they distrusted the authorities.
Moscow on Monday is to begin a system under which restaurant service will be limited to people who can show they’ve been vaccinated or had a recent negative coronavirus test.
Eighteen regions made vaccinations mandatory this month for employees in certain sectors.
On Friday, Moscow authorities reimposed work-from-home restrictions. In a decree published on his website, Mr Sobyanin ordered that businesses cut their number of in-office workers by 30 percent from June 28.
Vaccinated employees would be excluded, the decree said, adding that all workers aged over 65 as well as those with pre-existing conditions would have to work from home.
The Delta variant has been surging among a population that has largely rejected coronavirus vaccines, despite jabs having been available for free since early December.
As of Friday, just 21.2 million out of a population of about 146 million had received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to the Gogov website, which tallies Covid figures from the regions and the media.
With Russia’s vaccination campaign faltering, Sobyanin earlier this month ordered some 60 percent of all service industry workers in Moscow – just over two million people – to be fully vaccinated by August 15.
Mr Sobyanin warned that the Delta variant is causing 90 per cent of infections in Moscow
The head of health watchdog Rospotrebnadzor, Anna Popova, said Friday that 18 regions across Russia have now introduced some form of compulsory vaccination.
On Saturday, a central Russian region suspended COVID-19 vaccinations for two days due to a shortage of doses, local officials said.
Following shortages that suspended inoculation campaigns from Friday at some centres in the Bashkiria and Khabarovsk regions, health officials in the central Udmurtia region said vaccinations would stop until Monday due to a supply crunch.
The Kremlin said the issue would be resolved in the coming days, and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin announced additional health spending of 25 billion roubles ($347 million) for the care of COVID-19 patients.
Earlier this month, authorities in Moscow and several other regions made vaccination mandatory for people working in jobs involving close contact with the public – from hairdressers and taxi drivers to bank tellers and teachers.
With a parliamentary election due in September, Russia’s communist party held a protest against compulsory vaccination in central Moscow on Saturday. Several dozen people took part in the rally before being dispersed by police.
Russia is the sixth-worst hit Covid-19 country in the world, and the hardest in Europe.
Authorities have been accused of downplaying the severity of the outbreak in the country.
Under a broader definition for deaths linked to coronavirus, statistics agency Rosstat at the end of April said that Russia has seen at least 270,000 fatalities since the pandemic began.
As of Saturday, just 21.2 million out of a population of about 146 million had received at least one dose of a vaccine as of Friday, according to the Gogov website, which tallies Covid figures from the regions and the media.
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