Siberian Region First in Russia to Order New COVID Lockdown as Nation Reports 17K Cases

Buryatia, a republic in Siberia, became the first region in Russia to announce a new COVID-19 lockdown on Wednesday as the country faces another surge of coronavirus cases.

The two-week lockdown is set to begin on Sunday, and only essential services will be allowed to operate. These include grocery stores, pharmacies, utility companies, public transportation services and media.

The lockdown is being implemented in an attempt to combat another recent surge in COVID-19 infections in Russia. Buryatia's coronavirus task force said the decision was made in an attempt to "reverse the epidemic situation, which has been worsening for a fifth straight week."

Russia has seen an increase in new coronavirus cases by more than 88 percent over the past month, with the daily tally of new cases in early June at around 9,000 to over 17,000 as of Friday.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Russia Covid
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin (2R), accompanied by chief doctor of the Kommunarka infectious diseases hospital Denis Protsenko (R) and Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin (2L), visits the hospital for Covid-19 patients in the Moscow's settlement of Kommunarka outside Moscow on June 18, 2021. Moscow hits a new record confirmed 9,056 new Covid-19 daily cases as a part of 17,262 cases in Russia overall. Alexander Astafyev/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

Buryatia, a region of 985,000 people just north of Mongolia, went from reporting about 90 new infections a day at the beginning of June to over 200 a day last week. In light of the increase in new cases, local authorities earlier this month already closed theaters, cinemas, swimming pools and spas, and restricted shopping malls.

Buryatia is the only Russian region so far that has imposed several lockdowns since the beginning of the pandemic. Last November, the region's governor also closed all nonessential businesses to close for two weeks to cope with a resurgence of the outbreak.

Russia had only one, six-week nationwide lockdown last spring. Most coronavirus restrictions in the country were lifted over the summer, with regional governors empowered to decide on which virus measures to keep in place.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Wednesday that authorities had plans to reimpose another nationwide lockdown.

Russia, a nation of 146 million, was among the first in the world to roll out a coronavirus vaccine last year but has been much slower than other countries in vaccinating its population. As of last Friday, only 19.7 million people—about 13 percent of the population—had received at least one vaccine shot and 16.1 million, or 11 percent, have been fully immunized.

In Buryatia, over 162,000 people—16 percent of the population—have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 126,000, or just under 13 percent, have gotten both shots.

Russia's state coronavirus taskforce has reported over 5.3 million confirmed infections and 130,895 deaths, the highest death toll in Europe.

Russia Medical Workers
Medical workers wearing protective gear talk as they transport a patient suspected of having coronavirus, at a hospital in Kommunarka, outside Moscow, Russia, Monday, June 21, 2021. Russia's national coronavirus taskforce on Saturday reported 17,378 new infection cases, more than double the daily tally from early June - more than half of them in Moscow, where the infection numbers have tripled this month. Pavel Golovkin/AP Photo