Russian Officials Told By Putin to Order Those Over 60 Without COVID Vaccine to Stay Home

After COVID-19 cases and deaths surged again in Russia, President Vladimir Putin has ordered those over age 60 who have not received the vaccination to stay home, the Associated Press reported.

Russia's national coronavirus task force reported 36,446 new cases on Tuesday, a slightly lower number than those in the previous few days, and 1,106 COVID-19 related deaths, the most since the start of the pandemic.

Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said hospitals are being overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases, as nearly 90 percent of hospital beds are filled with over 268,000 infected patients.

"It's a colossal load on the health care system," Murashko said.

Russia believes low vaccination rates have allowed the virus to spread quickly, as only about one-third of the country's population is fully vaccinated.

Putin has begun a shutdown of the country, ordering a nonworking period from October 30 to November 7, urging citizens to stay home and stay safe during an extended holiday. Schools, gyms, and entertainment venues will close or limit admission only to those who have been fully vaccinated, and restaurants will be open only for takeout or delivery. Authorities have also been put in place to better enforce the mask mandates.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Russia COVID Numbers Rise
Russia ordered new COVID-19 restrictions on Tuesday as case and death numbers rise. Above, employees of the Federal State Center for Special Risk Rescue Operations of Russia Emergency Situations disinfect Savyolovsky railway station in Moscow. Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press

The Russian leader encouraged the worst-affected regions to start the off-work time earlier and possibly extend it beyond November 7. Six of Russia's 85 regions began the idle period on Monday, and more joined them Tuesday. Moscow is set to suspend work for most people Thursday.

Russian authorities expect the time off to help limit the spread of contagion by keeping people out of offices and off public transportation.

However, the sales of airline tickets and hotel bookings at Russian Black Sea resorts surged at the news of the extended holiday, forcing authorities in the south to shut entertainment venues and limit access to restaurants and bars to customers with the digital health codes. Tour companies also reported a surge in demand for package vacations for Egyptian resorts.

"It's important to speed up the pace of vaccination, otherwise we won't be able to control the spread of infection," Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said at a Cabinet meeting.

Russia was the first country in the world to authorize a coronavirus vaccine, launching Sputnik V in August of 2020. It has abundant supplies of the vaccine, but citizens have been slow to get shots, a trend blamed in part on conflicting signals from authorities.

In neighboring Ukraine, vaccine uptake has been even slower. About 16 percent of the country's 41 million people has been fully vaccinated. Confirmed cases and deaths have increased over the past week, and the Ukrainian Health Ministry on Tuesday reported a record 734 deaths in 24 hours.

Bulgaria reported 5,863 new confirmed cases and 243 deaths Tuesday, both national daily records. Medical personnel are concerned the latest wave may overwhelm the country's ailing health care system.