Russia on Friday recorded another daily record of coronavirus deaths as authorities hoped to stem the contagion by keeping most people off work.
The government’s coronavirus task force reported 1,163 deaths in 24 hours, the largest daily number since the pandemic began. That brought Russia's official total to 236,220 deaths, by far the highest in Europe.
The task force counts only deaths directly caused by the virus. The state statistics service Rosstat, which counts COVID-19 deaths by wider criteria, released figures Friday indicating a much higher toll.
Rosstat counted 44.265 deaths in September caused directly by the virus, or in which it was a contributing cause or of patients believed to have been infected. That would bring Russia's pandemic-long death toll to about 461,000 as of the end of September, nearly twice the task force's count.
Either death figure places Russia among the worst-hit nations in the world during the pandemic.
To contain the spread of infection, Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a nonworking period from Oct. 30 to Nov. 7, when most state agencies and private businesses are to suspend operations. He encouraged Russia’s worst-hit regions to start sooner, and some ordered most residents off work earlier this week.
Moscow introduced the measure beginning Thursday, shutting down kindergartens, schools, gyms, entertainment venues and most stores, and restricting restaurants to takeout or delivery. Food stores, pharmacies and companies operating key infrastructure remained open.
Access to museums, theaters, concert halls and other venues in Russia is limited to people holding digital codes on their phones to prove they have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19, a practice that will remain after Nov. 7. Unvaccinated people older than 60 have been ordered to stay home.
The number of new daily cases in Russia rose by 39,849 on Friday, just below the all-time record reported the previous day. The government hopes that by keeping most people out of offices and public transportation, the nonworking period will help curb the spread of the virus, but many Russians rushed to use the time off for a seaside Black Sea vacation or to take a trip to Egypt or Turkey.
Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, the head of the government coronavirus task force, voiced concern about a spike in beach vacations.
“We are particularly worried about our citizens booking tourist trips to other regions,” she said.
Authorities have blamed soaring infections and deaths on Russia’s lagging pace of vaccinations. About 51 million Russians — just over a third of the country’s nearly 146 million people — were fully vaccinated as of Friday.
Russia was the first country in the world to authorize a coronavirus vaccine in August 2020 and proudly named the shot Sputnik V to showcase the country’s scientific edge. But the vaccination campaign has stalled amid widespread public skepticism blamed on conflicting signals from authorities.