Record Covid fatalities as Russia prepares for nationwide curbs

Russia reported a record 1,075 Covid deaths in 24 hours on Saturday as Europe’s hardest-hit country with dramatically low vaccination rates prepares for nationwide curbs from next week.

Despite multiple pleas from President Vladimir Putin and the availability of the homegrown Sputnik V vaccine, only 36% of Russians are fully vaccinated.

According to government figures, the country saw a record 37,678 new virus cases on Saturday.

The official death toll is now 229,528 – the highest on the continent – even as authorities are accused of vastly downplaying the effects of the pandemic.

Figures from the governmental statistics agency Rosstat paint a far darker picture, suggesting that more than 400,000 people had died from coronavirus by the end of August.

Moscow – the centre of Russia’s outbreak – will shut non-essential services between 28 October and 7 November.

Putin also ordered a nationwide paid week off starting on 30 October to curb fast-spreading infections.

The Kremlin said the 69-year-old will have no in-person meetings during the non-working period.

Putin this week linked Russia’s high death rates to what he called an “unfortunately” low vaccination rate and urged Russians to show “responsibility” and get the jab.

Although it is being used in dozens of countries, Sputnik V is not approved by the EU or the World Health Organization.

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