Russia on Sunday reported a record daily death toll from COVID-19, the fifth time in a week that deaths there have hit a new high.
The country’s national coronavirus task force said 890 deaths were recorded over the past day, exceeding the 887 reported on Friday. The task force also said the number of new infections in the past day was the second-highest of the year at 25,769.
Overall, Russia, a nation of 146 million, has Europe’s highest death toll from the pandemic — nearly 210,000 people.
Yet despite the country’s persistent rise in daily deaths and new cases, Russian officials say there are no plans to impose a lockdown. Mask-wearing regulations are in place but are loosely enforced.
Moscow briefly tried during the summer to require proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test for indoor customers at restaurants and bars, but abandoned the program after business owners complained of reduced revenues.
Even though Russia boasted of creating the world’s first coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik V, only 32.5 per cent of its people have gotten at least one vaccine shot and only 28 per cent are fully vaccinated. Critics have principally blamed a botched vaccine rollout and mixed messages the authorities have been sending about the outbreak.
In addition, coronavirus antibody tests are popular in Russia and some observers suggest this contributes to the low vaccination numbers.
Western health experts say the antibody tests are unreliable either for diagnosing COVID-19 or assessing immunity to it. The antibodies that these tests look for can only serve as evidence of a past infection. Scientists say it’s still unclear what level of antibodies indicates that a person has protection from the virus and for how long.
President Vladimir Putin has observed periods of self-isolation since mid-September after dozens of people in the Kremlin were found to be infected. Putin met with Turkey’s leader last week after coming out of his latest isolation period.
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What’s happening around the world
As of Sunday, more than 234.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus-tracking tool. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.7 million.
In the Asia-Pacific, Australia’s New South Wales state has recorded 10 new deaths and 667 locally acquired COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, as its outbreak continues to ease.
In Africa, repeated and sudden power failures in Uganda is adding to the logistical challenges facing efforts to ramp up vaccination across the country.
In the Americas, Cuba is speeding up its vaccination program as it aims to fully inoculate 90 per cent of its population against the coronavirus by December, an ambitious goal that has yet to be reached by even wealthier nations.
In Europe, three Vatican Swiss Guards who have refused to be vaccinated — a requirement set out by the city state — have voluntarily left the storied corps to return to Switzerland, a Swiss Guard official said Sunday.
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