MOSCOW – Russia reported its worst single-day death toll from Covid-19 on Friday as coronavirus cases are increasing in some areas and reluctance to vaccinate remains widespread.
The daily death toll in Russia has remained essentially stable since July, in a narrow range of 700 to just over 800. Many experts doubt the veracity of the daily figures, in part because the death toll has been so relatively low and stable – and official figures of all kinds have been widely viewed with suspicion dating back to Soviet times. At least 300,000 more people died last year during the coronavirus pandemic than was reported in Russia’s most-cited official statistics, according to a New York Times analysis of mortality data.
But a trend is clear. On Friday, the reported toll hit its highest level yet, 828, after tying the previous record, 820, on Thursday. And with the legislative elections ending last weekend, officials appear to be warning more urgently of the continued spread of the virus.
Officials in the Moscow region said they have put in place hundreds of new Covid hospital beds. In St. Petersburg, the government said 348 people had been hospitalized with Covid in the past 24 hours – one of the highest such figures in Russia’s second-largest city since early August, reported the Interfax press agency.
“The increase in the disease is only just beginning,” Russian epidemiologist Natalia Pshenichnaya told Interfax, adding that the pandemic was developing across Russia “in a very dynamic way.”
The most recent high-profile outbreaks in Russia involve the inner circle of President Vladimir V. Putin, who has isolated himself after several of his staff tested positive. Many Russians, however, have developed a laissez-faire attitude towards the virus, questioning the need to be vaccinated and often wearing face masks around their chins, if at all.
Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine has been widely available since the start of this year, and eligibility Vaccinations against Covid begin at age 18. But Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said last week that only 47.5 million people have received at least one dose, a number that represents less than half of the eligible population.