MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russia said last week’s nationwide workplace shutdown had helped turn the tide of surging COVID-19 cases, even as officials on Tuesday reported the largest one-day death toll of the pandemic so far.
All but a handful of Russia’s 80-plus regions on Monday ended a “non-working” period from Oct. 30 to Nov. 7 that was ordered by President Vladimir Putin, the toughest nationwide restriction since the early months of the pandemic.
The health minister told a televised government meeting on Tuesday that the increase in the number of patients receiving medical care had slowed last week for the first time since the beginning of August, though he said it remained “quite high.”
“Undoubtedly, the fall is due to the… non-working days, the regional measures. These measures have turned the tide, and it is very right that a number of regions – five regions – have decided to extend the regime of days off,” the minister, Mikhail Murashko, said.
He said there were 1.36 million people under various kinds of medical supervision or treatment for COVID-19.
The government coronavirus taskforce reported a record one-day death toll of 1,211 and reported 39,160 new cases in the last 24 hours, down from a peak of 41,335 on Saturday.
St Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city by population, has ordered mandatory vaccination for people over 60 and those with chronic illnesses, a regional consumer health watchdog said on Tuesday.
The step was significant because authorities have generally held back from forcing people to get inoculated, fearing it could further entrench resistance to the domestically produced Sputnik V vaccine which is already distrusted by many Russians.
In Moscow, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said this coming week would be crucial for the capital and that it would be clear by the end of it what measures needed to be kept on. He said he hoped the situation would be more or less stable.
Many regions that have lifted the workplace shutdown will now require visitors to present a QR code on their mobile phones when visiting cafes, restaurants or shopping centres to prove they have been vaccinated or previously had the virus.
(Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov and Polina Devitt; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)