Russia Hits Record Daily COVID Cases Despite Enforced Holiday to Curb Disease

Russia has recorded its highest daily number of coronavirus cases despite a compulsory week's holiday imposed to curb the pandemic's spread in Europe's hardest-hit country.

Russian authorities said on Saturday that 41,335 new COVID cases were recorded in the last 24 hours.

This was the highest number since the start of the pandemic, Tass reported, beating the previous daily record of 40,993 from October 31.

There were also reported 1,188 coronavirus deaths in the same period as pressure builds on the Kremlin which has sounded the alarm over bed shortages and medical staff under strain.

The latest spike comes in spite of an enforced holiday declared by Russian President Vladimir Putin between October 30 and November 7 which closed schools, shops, gyms and other non-essential services.

Russia vaccine
A healthcare worker administers a dose of Russia's Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine in Moscow on October 21, 2021. The government announced on 6 November, 2021 there were a record daily number of new COVID cases. DIMITAR DILKOFF/Getty

Some businesses in the Russian capital stayed open out of financial necessity and risked fines of one million rubles ($14,000) due to a lack of support from the state throughout the pandemic and lockdown, The Moscow Times reported.

The Novgorod region in the northwest of the country was the first region to extend the non-working week by an additional seven days, news agency Tass reported.

Several other regions such as Tomsk in Siberia, Chelyabinsk in the Ural Mountains and Kursk and Bryansk regions southwest of Moscow, have also extended the non working period.

Russian officials blame low vaccination rates for the sharp rise. There have been around 57.2 million full-course vaccinations—less than 40 percent of the country's population, the Associated Press reported.

Russia boasted about being the first country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, which they have exported to more than 70 countries all the while being unable to complete inoculation of its own population.

Meanwhile, the single-dose Sputnik Light vaccine was favorably reviewed by the medical journal The Lancet this week which said it produced a strong antibody response.

However, vaccine hesitancy has been blamed on mixed messaging from the authorities, inconsistent policies, unreliable statistics and attempts to shift responsibility on to the leaders of Russia's republics and regions, Reuters reported, citing doctors and medical officials.

Digital passes will soon be put in place showing proof of vaccination or recent recovery from coronavirus to enter public areas and events, the state-run TASS news agency reported.

The Russian government COVID task force says the official death toll is 245,635, the largest in Europe and the fourth highest in the world behind the United States, Brazil, and India. There have been a total of 8,755,930 infections.

However, authorities have been accused of skewing the numbers to cover up a higher death count and the task force only counts deaths directly caused by the virus.

State statistical service, Rosstat, which also counts deaths where the virus was a contributing factor or was suspected, gave a much higher toll. It said at the end of September, there were about 462,000 virus-connected deaths—nearly twice as high as the task force's figures.