Russia sets new record for daily COVID-19 deaths

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MOSCOW (AP) – Russia on Tuesday recorded a new record number of daily coronavirus deaths as it faced a rapid wave of contagion amid lagging vaccination rates.

The government coronavirus task force has reported 973 coronavirus deaths, the highest daily toll since the start of the pandemic.

The country has continuously recorded new coronavirus death records this month, and daily infections have also hovered near all-time highs, with 28,190 new cases confirmed on Tuesday.

In total, the Russian Coronavirus Task Force has recorded more than 7.8 million confirmed cases and 218,345 deaths – the highest death toll in Europe. State statistics agency Rosstat, which also counts deaths where the virus was not considered the primary cause, reported a much higher total – around 418,000 deaths of people with COVID-19.

The Russian government has blamed a sharp rise in infections and deaths that started last month on a slow vaccination rate. Only 47.8 million Russians, or nearly 33% of its nearly 146 million population, had received at least one injection of a coronavirus vaccine, and 42.4 million, or about 29%, were completely vaccinated, the government announced on Friday.

Despite the rapid rise in the number of coronavirus cases and deaths, the Kremlin has ruled out a nationwide lockdown, delegating the power to make decisions on tightening restrictions on coronaviruses to regional authorities.

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

However, life remains largely normal in Moscow, St. Petersburg and many other Russian cities, with businesses operating as usual and mask mandates sparsely enforced. In Moscow, authorities have extended free coronavirus testing in shopping malls, hoping it would help stem the contagion.

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