Russia’s new COVID-19 cases surge to highest since January

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Russia on Thursday reported 20,182 new COVID-19 cases, the most confirmed in a single day since Jan. 24, amid a wave of infections that authorities blame on the Delta variant and people’s reluctance to get vaccinated.

The government coronavirus taskforce also confirmed 568 coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours. Both Moscow and St Petersburg recorded the most deaths in a single day since the pandemic began.

As cases began rising rapidly this month, officials scrambled to coax and compel people to get inoculated amid tepid demand for the vaccine despite the widespread availability of COVID-19 shots.

Moscow’s authorities have ordered bars and restaurants from Monday to only serve people if they can present a QR-code showing they have been vaccinated, had an infection indicating immunity or recently tested negative.

Unvaccinated people are to be refused non-emergency hospital treatment. Last week Moscow gave employers in public services a month to ensure that 60% of their staff had been vaccinated or else face a fine.

On Thursday, Moscow’s coronavirus taskforce said such employers should suspend staff who refuse to get vaccinated as part of that directive unless they have special medical dispensation.

Outdoor cafes and verandas will be off limits from July 12 to people who do not have a QR-code, the Moscow mayor’s office was cited as saying by the TASS news agency.

Photo: Russian policemen wearing face masks guard on the Red Square in front of Spaskaya tower of Moscow Kremlin, in downtown Moscow, Russia. EPA-EFE/SERGEI ILNITSKY