Some Russian Regions Begin Off-Work Period as COVID Cases Hit Daily High

Some Russian regions entered nonworking periods Monday and others are slated to join them this week as daily COVID-19 infections again hit a record high Monday, the Associated Press reported. The government's COVID task force reported 37,930 new cases in 24 hours and 1,069 deaths, nearly reaching the record 1,075 documented over the weekend.

President Vladimir Putin ordered a nonworking period to begin Oct. 30 and extend through Nov. 7, when Russia will observe an extended holiday. The order includes most private businesses and state organizations, with only those in charge of key facilities and services and some others given exemptions.

Putin said when announcing the nonworking order that some regions where the COVID-19 outbreak was more severe could see their period begin early and go past November 7. Six that were hit particularly hard-Kursk, Nizhny Novgorod, Novgorod, Perm, Samara and Voronezh-began their off-work periods Monday, the AP reported.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Russia's COVID Outbreak
Russia is preparing to have residents stop going into work later this week as COVID-19 infections in the country continue to surge and daily cases again hit a record high Monday. A medical worker wearing a special suit to protect against COVID-19 treats a patient at an ICU in Infectious Hospital No. 23 in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. Roman Yarovitcyn/AP Photo

Officials in Moscow ordered the period to begin Thursday, with gyms, most entertainment venues and most stores closed for 11 days along with kindergartens and schools. Restaurants and cafes will only be open for takeout or delivery orders during that period. Food stores and pharmacies can stay open.

Access to museums, theaters, concert halls and other venues will be limited to those holding digital codes on their smartphones to prove vaccination or past illness, a practice that will remain in place after November 7.

Putin has also told local officials to order unvaccinated people older than 60 to stay home and close nightclubs and other entertainment venues.

Russian authorities hope the idle time will help limit the spread of the virus by keeping people out of offices and off public transportation, where mask mandates have been loosely enforced.

Overall, Russia has registered over 8.2 million confirmed virus cases and 231,669 deaths, by far the highest death toll in Europe and the fifth-highest in the world after the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico.

The government has blamed the latest spike in infections and deaths on low vaccination rates and lax public attitudes toward taking precautions. Only about 45 million Russians — roughly a third of the country's nearly 146 million people — are fully vaccinated.

Russia was the first country in the world to authorize a coronavirus vaccine, launching Sputnik V in August 2020, and has plentiful supplies. But uptake has been slow, blamed in part on conflicting signals from authorities.

COVID Deaths in Russia
The low vaccination rate in Russia, where only about a third of the population is fully vaccinated, is causing concern as the country suffers a sharp rise in cases, setting records for infections and deaths nearly every day this month. A funeral worker carries a coffin cover for a patient who died of COVID-19 at Infectious Hospital No. 5 in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. Roman Yarovitcyn/AP Photo