St. Petersburg, Russia's Second-Largest City, Limits Elective Care as Omicron Takes Hold

St. Petersburg, Russia's second-largest city, announced on Friday that it is placing a limit on outpatient care and stopping elective procedures because of an all-time high infection rate reported by the state coronavirus task force.

According to Euronews, authorities fear a "storm" of Omicron cases in the coming weeks and expect the surge to be between late January and early February. St. Petersburg reported 5,922 new cases on Friday, adding to the 15,987 Moscow reported.

The task force, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, reported that Friday's total of 49,513 new infections is the highest of the pandemic. She noted "intensive spread of the Omicron variant" and said authorities "expect it to become the dominating" variant.

According to The Moscow Times, officials are urging the health care system to be ready for another influx of patients. As a result, St. Petersburg has placed a limit on outpatient care and chose to stop elective procedures.

Moscow has already seen a significant presence of the Omicron variant, according to Mayor Sergei Sobyanin. He warned that Moscow could see a major increase in infections, saying "it is quite possible that we will face a worse situation than in previous waves," according to The Moscow Times.

Anna Popova, head of the Rospotrebnadzor consumer health watchdog, said that Omicron infections tripled during Russia's extended New Year's holidays and claimed that infections could pass 100,000 a day in an "unfavorable scenario," The Moscow Times reported.

Also, in a warning to health care officials and authorities, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia has just a "few weeks" to prepare for a new wave of infections, The Moscow Times said.

Prime Minster Mikhail Mishustin ordered Cabinet members to hold meetings online where possible, the Associated Press reported.

Russia's coronavirus task force said the death toll since the start of the pandemic is 324,752 and is considered Europe's worst. However, according to Russia's state statistics agency, the number is far higher. Between April of 2020 and October of 2021, the death toll was recorded as more than 625,000, it said.

While there is the fear of an Omicron surge, there has been no discussions of major restrictions or lockdowns. Golikova previously announced the decision to reduce the number of isolation days for those infected from 14 to seven, but that has not yet been put in place, AP reported.

Due to vaccine-hesitant residents, officials said they want to postpone introduction restrictions for unvaccinated people, AP reported. Of the 146 million people in Russia, about half have been fully vaccinated. Of the 21.8 million that are eligible for the booster, about 8.8 million have received it.

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St. Petersburg, Russia's second-largest city, announced on Friday that it is placing a limit on outpatient care and stopping elective procedures because of an all-time high infection rate reported by the state coronavirus task force. Kirill Kudryavtsev/Getty Images