Russia Admits Some Hospitals Close to Capacity, Over 29,000 New COVID Cases Reported

Russia continues to have Europe's highest death toll in the COVID-19 pandemic, as its coronavirus task force on Monday reported 29,409 new cases, low vaccination rates and overflowing hospitals, the Associated Press reported.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the low vaccination rates are causing the extreme case and death numbers, and overwhelming Russia's hospitals.

"The vaccination level we have is too low, impermissibly low. That is why we have mortality numbers that are so high. We are using every opportunity to make a simple call on all citizens—go ahead and get the shot," Peskov said.

Russia reported its number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic this weekend with 968, followed by 957 on Monday. The 29,409 new cases also were the highest number for the country in 2021, slightly lower than the record since the pandemic began.

The government attributed the rising number of cases and deaths to the low vaccination rate. Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said Friday that only 33 percent of Russians have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and only about 29 percent of its nearly 146 million people have been fully vaccinated.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Russia COVID Numbers Rise
Russia's COVID case numbers continue to rise and overwhelm hospitals. Above, a medical worker administers a shot of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine at a vaccination center in Gostinny Dvor in Moscow on July 12, 2021. Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

But while deploring the laggard pace of vaccination, Peskov rejected the idea of imposing fines on those who fail to get the vaccine and emphasized that it's up to regional authorities to decide whether to tighten coronavirus restrictions.

Some regions have limited attendance at large public events and restricted access to theaters, restaurants and other places to people who have been vaccinated, recently recovered from COVID-19 or tested negative in the previous 72 hours.

However, life remains largely normal in Moscow, St. Petersburg and many other major cities, with businesses operating as usual and mask mandates loosely enforced. On Monday, the authorities in Moscow announced the expansion of free coronavirus tests in shopping malls across the city, saying it should help stem contagion.

Overall, Russia's coronavirus task force has registered over 7.8 million confirmed cases and 217,372 deaths. However, reports by Russia's state statistical service Rosstat that tally coronavirus-linked deaths retroactively reveal significantly higher mortality numbers.

Rosstat on Friday revealed the latest coronavirus mortality data that showed more than 254,000 deaths of people with COVID-19 in the first eight months of this year compared to over 163,000 deaths of patients who had the coronavirus for the whole of 2020.

Unlike the coronavirus task force that only counts deaths of patients where the coronavirus was considered the main cause, Rosstat also tallies those who had COVID-19 but died of other causes, and those for whom the coronavirus was suspected but not confirmed.

Russia COVID Numbers Rise
Russia's COVID case numbers continue to rise and overwhelm hospitals. Above, an employee works with a vaccine at the Nikolai Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow on August 6, 2020. Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr/Russian Direct Investment Fund/Associated Press