MOSCOW >> Russia on Friday recorded another record of daily coronavirus deaths as authorities hoped to stem contagion by keeping most people off work.
The government’s coronavirus task force reported 1,163 deaths in 24 hours, the largest daily number since the pandemic began. The latest deaths brought the total toll to 236,220, by far the highest in Europe.
To contain the spread of infection, Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a nonworking period from Oct. 30 to Nov. 7, when most state organizations and private businesses are to suspend operations. He encouraged Russia’s worst-hit regions to start sooner, and some ordered most residents off work earlier this week.
Moscow introduced the measure starting from Thursday, shutting kindergartens, schools, gyms, entertainment venues and most stores, and restricting restaurants and cafes to only takeout or delivery. Food stores, pharmacies and companies operating key infrastructure remained open.
Access to museums, theaters, concert halls and other venues is limited to people holding digital codes on their smartphones to prove they have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19, a practice that will remain in place after Nov. 7. Unvaccinated people older than 60 have been ordered to stay home.
The number of new daily cases in Russia rose by 39,849 on Friday, just below an all-time record reported the previous day. The government hopes that by keeping most people out of offices and public transportation the nonworking period would help curb the spread, but many Russians rushed to use the surprise time off for a seaside vacation in the country’s south or to take a trip to Egypt or Turkey.
Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, the head of the government coronavirus task force, voiced concern about a spike in beach vacations.
“We are particularly worried about our citizens booking tourist trips to other regions,” she said.
Authorities have blamed soaring infections and deaths on Russia’s lagging pace of vaccinations. About 51 million Russians — just over a third of the country’s nearly 146 million people — were fully vaccinated as of Friday.
Russia was the first country in the world to authorize a coronavirus vaccine in August 2020 and proudly named the shot Sputnik V to showcase the country’s scientific edge. But the vaccination campaign has stalled amid widespread public skepticism blamed on conflicting signals from authorities.