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Russia hits new high daily COVID-19 cases

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Russia has recorded a new daily high number of coronavirus cases as much of the country’s businesses remain closed in an effort to counter a weeks-long surge in infections.

The national coronavirus task force on Sunday reported 40,993 new infections over the previous day, up more than 700 on the previous record of a day earlier.

Russia has tallied new records of infections or deaths almost daily during October.

The death toll reported on Sunday was 1158, just slightly down from Friday’s record 1163.

That brought Russia’s official COVID-19 death count to 238,538, by far the largest in Europe.

More than 8.51 million infections have been recorded in the country of 146 million during the pandemic.

The task force counts only deaths directly caused by the virus.

The state statistics service Rosstat, which counts COVID-19 deaths by wider criteria, released figures on Friday indicating a much higher toll.

Rosstat counted 44,265 deaths in September caused directly by the virus, or in which it was a contributing cause or of patients believed to have been infected.

That would bring Russia’s pandemic-long death toll to about 461,000 as of the end of September, nearly twice the task force’s count.

To contain the spread of infection, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a non-working period from October 30 to November 7, during which most state agencies and private businesses are to suspend operations.

Moscow introduced the measure beginning on Thursday, shutting down kindergartens, schools, gyms, entertainment venues and most stores, and restricting restaurants to takeout or delivery.

Food stores, pharmacies and companies operating key infrastructure remained open.

Access to museums, theatres, concert halls and other venues in Russia is limited to people holding digital codes on their phones to prove they have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19, a practice that will remain after November 7.

Unvaccinated people older than 60 have been ordered to stay home.

The government hopes that by keeping most people out of offices and public transportation, the non-working period will help curb the spread of the virus, but many Russians rushed to use the time off for a seaside Black Sea vacation or to take a trip to Egypt or Turkey.

Authorities have blamed soaring infections and deaths on Russia’s lagging pace of vaccinations.

About 51 million Russians – just over a third of the country’s people – were fully vaccinated as of Sunday.

Russia was the first country in the world to authorise a coronavirus vaccine in August 2020 and proudly named the shot Sputnik V to showcase the country’s scientific edge.

But the vaccination campaign has stalled amid widespread public scepticism blamed on conflicting signals from authorities.

-AP