MOSCOW (AP) – Russia on Sunday reported a record daily death toll from COVID-19, the fifth time in a week that deaths have reached a new high.
The National Coronavirus Task Force said 890 deaths were recorded on the previous day, up from 887 recorded on Friday. The task force also said the number of new infections on the previous day was the second highest of the year at 25,769.
Overall, Russia, a country of 146 million people, has the highest death toll in Europe from the pandemic of around 210,000.
Yet despite the country’s steady rise in daily deaths and new cases, Russian officials say there are no plans to impose a lockdown. Rules for wearing masks are in place, but they are enforced loosely.
Moscow briefly tried to require proof of vaccination or negative PCR tests for indoor customers at restaurants and bars during the summer, but dropped the program after business owners complained of low revenue.
Even though Russia claims to have created the world’s first coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik V, only 32.5% of its people have received at least one vaccine shot and only 28% have been fully vaccinated. Critics have mainly blamed a failed vaccine rollout and mixed messages sending officials about the outbreak.
In addition, coronavirus antibody tests are popular in Russia and some observers suggest this contributes to the low vaccination numbers.
Western health experts say antibody tests are either unreliable for diagnosing COVID-19 or for assessing immunity to it. The antibodies these tests look for can only serve as evidence of past infection. Scientists say it is still unclear what levels of antibodies indicate a person has protection from the virus and for how long.
President Vladimir Putin has observed a period of self-isolation since mid-September after dozens of people were found infected in the Kremlin. Putin met with Turkey’s leader last week after coming out of his latest isolation period.