MOSCOW (AP) – New coronavirus infections in Russia reached a record high on Sunday, the third daily record in a row, as the highly contagious omicron variant spread across the country.
The National Coronavirus Task Force reported 63,205 new infections in 24 hours – an increase of more than 25% since the record was set last Friday. The task force reported 679 deaths, similar to other daily deaths in the past week.
The Omicron variant has been discovered in 64 of the country’s 89 regions, and Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova says authorities expect it to become the dominant variant.
Nearly half of Russia’s 146 million people have been fully vaccinated, despite Russia being among the first in the world to approve and roll out a COVID-19 vaccine. In Russia, anyone who received their primary vaccination more than six months ago has been eligible for a booster injection since July.
Gogov.ru, an independent site that tracks vaccinations, estimates that 8.8 million people have also received a booster shot.
Yet daily daily infections in Russia have been steadily rising since January 10th.
Russia’s state coronavirus task force has recorded 326,112 deaths since the start of the pandemic – by far Europe’s worst death toll. Russia’s state statistics agency, which uses broader counting criteria, puts the number of pandemic deaths even higher, saying the number of virus-related deaths between April 2020 and October 2021 was over 625,000.
Russia’s authorities admit that the current increase may end up being the country’s largest so far, but have so far not announced any major restrictions to stem it.
A nationwide lockdown was not discussed, officials said, the government decided indefinitely to postpone the imposition of restrictions on unvaccinated people, which would have been an extremely unpopular move among vaccine-hesitant Russians.
Russia has also reduced the required isolation period for people infected with COVID-19 from 14 to seven days, although it is still unclear when it will take effect.
Authorities say the country’s soaring infections have so far not led to a similar increase in hospitalizations.
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