Russia has hit a new record for a single-day increase in deaths due to COVID-19, with 652 reported on Tuesday alone as the country battles a new surge spurred in part by the highly transmissible delta coronavirus variant and low vaccination rates.
The new high comes as Russian authorities have been reporting about 600 deaths per day since Thursday, as well as an average daily increase of 20,000 new coronavirus infections, according to The Associated Press.
In total, Russia has had roughly 5.5 million coronavirus cases, as well as more than 134,000 deaths as of Tuesday, according to Russia’s coronavirus task force.
Amid the country’s surge, just 14 percent of Russians have received at least one shot of the coronavirus vaccine, despite the fact that Russia was one of the first countries to unveil and start distributing a COVID-19 vaccine.
Russian health officials have cited widespread vaccine hesitancy as a main reason for the low rate of vaccinations, despite the rapid transmission of the delta variant, which has been identified by the World Health Organization as a “variant of concern” and recorded in more than 80 countries.
On Friday, the Kremlin announced that some occupations will require that its workers get vaccinated, including at government offices and in sectors like education and retail.
While Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said at the time that “no one is making” people get vaccinated, arguing that people may look for another job, he had previously said that unvaccinated Russians would likely have limited work options.
The coronavirus surge in Russia has hit Moscow especially hard, with Mayor Sergei Sobyanin saying earlier this month that a “new mutation” has arrived that is “more aggressive, it's harder to recover from, it spreads faster.”
“It's much more likely to penetrate a person's immune system," he added at the time, according to the RIA news agency.