Amid rising coronavirus infections and deaths, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the country’s workers to suspend work for a week later this month.
On Wednesday, the government task force reported 1,02 COVID deaths in the last two hours, the highest number since the onset of the epidemic. This brings Russia’s total death toll to 226,353, the highest ever in Europe.
Putin said he supported the cabinet’s proposal to introduce a no-work period starting October October and extended it to next week, when four of the seven days are already state holidays.
He added in some areas where the situation is most dire, the non-working period could start as early as Saturday and be extended after November.
In a video call with top officials on Wednesday, Putin said, “Our job today is to protect the lives and health of our citizens and reduce the consequences of dangerous infections.”
Russia’s daily coronavirus deaths have been on the rise for weeks, and for the first time over the weekend, the top 1,000 have seen a drop in vaccination rates, a relaxed public outcry and a reluctance by the government to impose tougher sanctions.
About 50 million Russians, or 322 percent of the country’s 16 million people, have been fully vaccinated.
“It’s a matter of your life and the health of your loved ones,” Putin said Wednesday, urging Russians to take strong action.
“There are only two ways to pass this time; Get sick or get vaccinated, ”Putin said.
The Russian leader, who received the domestic Sputnik V vaccine earlier this year, said he was confused by the hesitation about the vaccine, even among his close friends.
“I do not understand what is happening,” Putin said. “We have a reliable and efficient vaccine. Vaccines really reduce the risk of illness, serious complications and death.
Although Russia, in August 2020, became the first country in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine and the vaccine was plentiful, Russians were reluctant to receive shots, citing a skepticism for conflicting signals sent by authorities.
While praising Sputnik V and three other domestic vaccines, the state-controlled media often criticized Western-made shots, a controversial message that many generally saw as food for public skepticism about the vaccine.
So far, the Kremlin has rejected a new nationwide lockdown at the start of the epidemic that has dealt a severe blow to the economy and reduced Putin’s popularity, giving regional authorities across 11 regions of the country the power to decide on local restrictions, depending on their situation.
Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova, who heads the government’s Coronavirus Task Force, said on Wednesday that access to restaurants, cafes, theaters, cinema halls, gyms and other facilities would be restricted during the working week, with authorities in each region expected to make relevant decisions.
The cabinet has drafted compensatory measures to help businesses absorb the push, including a minimum monthly wage per worker and low-interest credit for one-time payments.
Many in Russia’s 855 regions already have limited attendance at large public events and limited access to theaters, restaurants and other venues. Some have made vaccination mandatory for certain government employees and people over the age of 0.
In some areas, growing infections forced authorities to suspend medical assistance to the population because healthcare facilities were forced to concentrate on the treatment of coronavirus patients.
In Moscow, however, life continues normally, with restaurants and movie theaters packed with people, crowded nightclubs and karaoke bars and passengers massively ignoring orders for masks on public transport, even intensive care units have been filled in recent weeks.