Russia's daily Covid deaths exceed 1,000 for first time

(AP) - Russia’s daily death toll from Covid-19 has exceeded 1,000 for the first time as the country faces a sustained wave of rising infections.

The national coronavirus task force on Saturday reported 1,002 deaths in the previous day, up from 999 on Friday, along with 33,208 new confirmed Covid-19 cases, more than 1,000 higher than the day before.

Authorities have tried to speed up the pace of vaccinations with lotteries, bonuses and other incentives but widespread vaccine scepticism and conflicting signals from officials has stymied the efforts.

The government said this week that about 43 million Russians, or about 29% of the country’s nearly 146 million people, are fully vaccinated.

A medical worker carries a patient suspected of having coronavirus on a stretcher at a hospital in Kommunarka, outside Moscow, Russia, Monday, Oct. 11, 2021. Russia's daily coronavirus infections and deaths are hovering near all-time highs amid a laggard vaccination rate and the Kremlin's reluctance to toughen restrictions. Russia's state coronavirus task force reported 29,409 new confirmed cases Monday. That's the highest number since the start of the year and just slightly lower than the pandemic record reached in December. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
A medical worker carries a patient suspected of having coronavirus on a stretcher at a hospital in Kommunarka, outside Moscow, Russia, Monday, Oct. 11, 2021. Russia's daily coronavirus infections and deaths are hovering near all-time highs amid a laggard vaccination rate and the Kremlin's reluctance to toughen restrictions. Russia's state coronavirus task force reported 29,409 new confirmed cases Monday. That's the highest number since the start of the year and just slightly lower than the pandemic record reached in December. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Despite the mounting toll, the Kremlin has ruled out a new nationwide lockdown like the one early on in the pandemic that badly hurt the economy, eroding President Vladimir Putin’s popularity.

Instead, it has delegated the power to enforce coronavirus restrictions to regional authorities.

Some of Russia’s 85 regions have restricted attendance at large public events and limited access to theatres, restaurants and other venues. However, daily life is going on largely as normal in Moscow, St Petersburg and many other Russian cities, with businesses operating as usual and mask mandates loosely enforced.

Health Minister Mikhail Murashko acknowledged this week that medical facilities have come under growing strain and said that authorities have offered retired medics who have been vaccinated the option of returning to work.

Overall, the coronavirus task force has registered more than 7,958,000 confirmed cases and 222,315 deaths — Europe’s highest death toll.

The official record ranks Russia as having the fifth-most pandemic deaths in the world following the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico.

However, state statistics agency Rosstat, which also counts deaths in which the virus was not considered the main cause, has reported a much higher pandemic death toll — about 418,000 people with Covid-19 as of August.

Based on that higher number, Russia would rank as the fourth hardest-hit nation in the world, ahead of Mexico.