Russia marks pandemic high of infections, deaths
MOSCOW (AP) — Russia on Thursday recorded the highest daily numbers of coronavirus infections and deaths since the start of the pandemic, a rapidly surging toll that has severely strained the nation's health care system.
The government's coronavirus task force reported 31,299 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 986 deaths in the last 24 hours.
The country has repeatedly marked record daily death tolls over the past few weeks as infections surged amid a slow vaccination rate and lax enforcement of measures to protect against the coronavirus.
Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said Tuesday that about 43 million Russians, or just about 29% of the country’s nearly 146 million people, were fully vaccinated.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has emphasized the need to speed up the vaccination rate, but he also has cautioned against forcing people to get vaccine shots.
Despite the mounting toll, the Kremlin has also ruled out a new nationwide lockdown like the one during the first months of the pandemic, which badly crippled the economy and dented Putin’s ratings, while delegating the power to enforce coronavirus restrictions to regional authorities.
Asked if there is a level of contagion that would force the Kremlin to impose a lockdown, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that each of Russia's 85 regions will make a decision depending on the situation.
He noted that the country's health care system has the resources and experience needed to cope with an influx of COVID-19 patients, adding that it would allow authorities to avoid lockdowns for “as long as the health care infrastructure isn't overwhelmed and remains in a working condition.”
“When the situation approaches a critical point where a regional health care system becomes unable to treat incoming patients the...