Russia Nears 200,000 New COVID Cases Amid Few Restrictions to Ease Spread

Russia reported on Thursday nearly 200,000 new coronavirus cases, a daily record in soaring infections driven by the fast-spreading Omicron variant, low vaccination rates and limited restrictions.

The country reported 197,076 new cases in just 24 hours, roughly 14,000 more than the day before and twice as many as two weeks ago, according to the state coronavirus task force. It also reported 701 deaths Thursday, but fatalities haven't increased with the surge in cases. COVID-19-related deaths remain between 600 and 700 a day.

Russia's cases have been increasing since January, while the rest of the world has seen drops following surges fueled by Omicron. The World Health Organization said Tuesday that cases dropped 17 percent globally over the past week, compared with the previous week, including the United States' 50 percent decrease in infections, according to the Associated Press.

Even with the surge in cases, Russian officials have been hesitant to impose major health restrictions. Recently, the government relaxed existing restrictions by changing guidelines and eliminating mandates altogether. The government previously required people who came into contact with someone who tested positive for the virus to self-isolate for one week, but that's no longer mandated.

Additionally, the mandatory quarantine time after a positive test was decreased from two weeks to seven days. And people who previously tested positive no longer need to test negative to leave quarantine.

Omicron accounts for at least 60 percent of all infections, said Anna Popova, the head of Russia's public health agency, the AP reported. She also said the restrictions didn't make sense since Omicron was spreading too quickly. Up to 20 percent of people in Russia and 40 percent of people in Moscow with a positive test were asymptomatic, Reuters reported.

Some regions of Russia have implemented more restrictions to protect children because Omicron is affecting them more than the previous variants did. In several areas, students have moved to remote learning, while in St. Petersburg, people under 18 are barred from most public areas, according to the AP.

Only about half of Russia's 146 million people have been vaccinated, even though it was one of the first countries to roll out a COVID-19 vaccine, which was developed in the country.

Children in Russia between 12 and 17 just started getting vaccinated last month, as only a small number of vaccines have been available for teenagers, the AP reported social media users said.

Meanwhile, almost 12,000 children are hospitalized for coronavirus treatment. They account for about 20 percent of Russia's total coronavirus cases, said Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko on Tuesday, The Moscow Times reported.

Russia has reported over 13.5 million coronavirus cases throughout the pandemic and 338,091 deaths. But state statistics agency Rosstat put the death toll much higher, at around 681,100 between April 2020 and December 2021, the AP reported.

Update 02/10/2022, 4:45 p.m. ET: This story was updated with additional information and background.

Russia High Number of COVID-19 Cases
Russia reported nearly 200,000 coronavirus cases in one day, with soaring infections fueled by the rapidly spreading Omicron variant. Above, medical staff perform a rapid test for the virus on January 7 in Berlin. Hannibal Hanschke/Getty Images