Russia on Sunday reported a record daily death toll from COVID-19, the fifth time in a week that deaths have hit a new high.
The national coronavirus task force said 890 deaths were recorded over the past day, exceeding the 887 reported on Friday. The task force also said the number of new infections in the past day was the second-highest of the year at 25,769.
Overall, Russia, a nation of 146 million people, has Europe’s highest death toll from the pandemic, nearly 210,000 people.
Yet despite the country’s persistent rise in daily deaths and new cases, Russian officials say there are no plans to impose a lockdown. Mask-wearing regulations are in place but are loosely enforced.
Moscow briefly tried during the summer to require proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test for indoor customers at restaurants and bars, but abandoned the program after business owners complained of reduced revenues.
Even though Russia boasted of creating the world’s first coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik V, only 32.5% of its people have gotten at least one vaccine shot and only 28% are fully vaccinated. Critics have principally blamed a botched vaccine rollout and mixed messages the authorities have been sending about the outbreak.
In addition, coronavirus antibody tests are popular in Russia and some observers suggest this contributes to the low vaccination numbers.
Western health experts say the antibody tests are unreliable either for diagnosing COVID-19 or assessing immunity to it. The antibodies that these tests look for can only serve as evidence of a past infection. Scientists say it’s still unclear what level of antibodies indicates that a person has protection from the virus and for how long.
President Vladimir Putin has observed periods of self-isolation since mid-September after dozens of people in the Kremlin were found to be infected. Putin met with Turkey’s leader last week after coming out of his latest isolation period.