Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered workers across the country not to work for a week from the end of the month amid rising coronavirus infections and deaths, and he urged citizens reluctant to get vaccinated.
The government task force on Wednesday reported 1,028 coronavirus deaths in the past 24 hours, the highest number since the start of the pandemic. This brought the total death toll in Russia to 226,353, which is by far the highest in Europe.
Putin said on Wednesday he supported the cabinet’s proposal to introduce a period of leave starting October 30 and extending until the following week, when four out of seven days are already public holidays. He added that in some regions, where the situation is most threatening, the non-work period could start as early as Saturday and be extended after November 7.
“Our task today is to protect the life and health of our citizens and to minimize the consequences of the dangerous infection,” Putin said during a video call with senior officials. “To achieve this, we must first slow down the rate of contagion and mobilize additional reserves from the health system, which is currently working under great pressure.”
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The daily number of coronavirus deaths in Russia has been rising for weeks and topped 1,000 for the first time over the weekend amid slow vaccination rates, lax public attitudes towards precautionary taking and the reluctance of the government to tighten restrictions.
About 45 million Russians, or 32% of the country’s nearly 146 million people, are fully immunized.
Putin on Wednesday urged Russians to get vaccinated, saying: “It is a question of your life and your health and the health of your loved ones.”
“There are only two ways to get over this period – get sick or get the vaccine,” Putin said. “It is better to be vaccinated, why wait for the disease and its serious consequences? Be responsible and take the necessary measures to protect yourself, your health and those close to you.”
The Russian leader, who received the national Sputnik V vaccine earlier this year, said he was perplexed to see the reluctance over vaccines even among his close friends.
“I can’t understand what’s going on,” Putin said. “We have a reliable and effective vaccine. The vaccine really does reduce the risk of illness, serious complications and death.”
Even though Russia in August 2020 became the first country in the world to authorize a vaccine against the coronavirus and the vaccines are plentiful, the Russians have been reluctant to be vaccinated, a skepticism attributed to the mixed signals sent by the authorities.
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While touting Sputnik V and three other national vaccines, the state-controlled media often criticized the Western-made shots, a controversial message that many saw as fueling public doubts about vaccines in general.
So far, the Kremlin has ruled out a new nationwide lockdown like the one at the start of the pandemic that has taken a heavy toll on the economy and undermined Putin’s popularity, empowering regional authorities in the 11 time zones of the world. countries to decide on local restrictions, depending on their situation.
Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, who heads the government’s coronavirus task force, said on Wednesday that the non-working week will involve restrictions on access to restaurants, cafes, theaters, cinemas, gymnasiums and other facilities, adding that authorities in each region should make relevant decisions.
The cabinet devised compensatory measures to help absorb the shock to the company, including one-off payments equivalent to a minimum monthly wage per worker and low-interest loans.
Many of Russia’s 85 regions have already restricted attendance at major public events and limited access to theaters, restaurants and other venues. Some have made vaccinations mandatory for some officials and people over 60.
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In some regions, the increase in infections has forced the authorities to suspend medical assistance to the population as health establishments have been forced to focus on treating patients with coronavirus.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov admitted the situation was “very sad”, noting that the level of vaccination in these areas was particularly low.
In Moscow, however, life continued as usual, with restaurants and cinemas teeming with people, crowds swarming nightclubs and karaoke bars, and commuters largely ignoring mask warrants on public transport so. even as intensive care has filled up in recent weeks.
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Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on Tuesday that unvaccinated people over the age of 60 will have to stay at home. He also asked companies to keep at least a third of their employees telecommuting for three months from October 25.
The government task force has recorded a total of more than 8 million infections and its official COVID-19 toll ranks Russia fifth in pandemic deaths in the world behind the United States, Brazil, India and the United States. Mexico.
However, state statistics agency Rosstat, which also counts deaths for which the virus was not considered the primary cause, reported a much higher number of pandemic deaths – around 418,000 people with COVID. -19 in August. Based on that number, Russia would be the fourth hardest-hit country, ahead of Mexico.
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