The Russian capital brought in its strictest COVID-19-related lockdown measures in more than a year on Thursday as nationwide one-day pandemic deaths and infections hit new highs amid slow vaccination uptake across the country.
Moscow’s partial lockdown, in which only essential shops like pharmacies and supermarkets are allowed to remain open and schools and state kindergartens are shut, comes ahead of a week-long nationwide workplace shutdown from Oct. 30.
Like Moscow, some regions decided to kick off their partial lockdowns on Thursday or even earlier in an effort to cut infection numbers ahead of the nationwide initiative.
Moscow’s residents are allowed to leave their homes unlike during a sweeping lockdown in summer 2020, but the new measures point to rising concern among officials over record numbers of deaths that the Kremlin has blamed on vaccine hesitancy.
Daily reported deaths hit all-time high
Officials on Thursday reported an all-time high of 1,159 COVID-19 nationwide deaths in the past 24 hours, while the number of daily infections broke through the 40,000 barrier for the first time.
Many Russians have said they are reluctant to get vaccinated and have spurned the four vaccines Russia has registered, including the flagship Sputnik V vaccine.
Some people say they are hesitant due to mistrust of the authorities, while others cite concerns about the safety of vaccines.
As of Oct. 22, official data showed that 49.1 million Russians were fully vaccinated. The total population, excluding annexed Crimea, is officially estimated at around 144 million.
There were mixed feelings about the lockdown on the streets of Moscow on Thursday. Some residents like Lyubov Machekhina said they thought it would obviously help slow infections.
But others like Mikhail, a Muscovite who did not give his surname, voiced doubts that there would be any real impact without a larger chunk of the population being vaccinated.
“In my opinion, it will change nothing. Perhaps, it will slow down [the spread of cases] a bit, but in fact, without herd immunity it’s nonsense. I don’t believe it will work.”
-From Reuters, last updated at 6:55 a.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
What’s happening around the world
As of early Thursday morning, more than 245 cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to the case tracking tool published by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.9 million.
In the Americas, COVID-19 is slowly retreating across most of North, Central and South America, the Pan American Health Organization said, reporting that last week the region’s death and infection figures were the lowest in over a year.
Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE said on Thursday they expect to deliver 50 million more doses of their COVID-19 vaccine to the U.S. government by the end of April, as the country prepares for vaccinating children.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Singapore’s health ministry said it is looking into an “unusual surge” in infections after the city-state reported 5,324 new cases of COVID-19, the most since the beginning of the pandemic, while intensive care beds were filling up.
In Africa, Kenya on Wednesday reported 99 additional cases of COVID-19 and three additional deaths.
In the Middle East, Iran on Wednesday reported 10,644 new cases of COVID-19 and 197 additional deaths.
In Europe, a Hungarian official announced Thursday that the government will allow employers to require that their employees get vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition for work. Additional new measures will include the required wearing of masks on public transportation and a ban on visits to public health-care institutions.
The government will opt to require vaccination for public employees, the official said. The measures came as the number of new infections and deaths in the country reaches levels not seen since a devastating pandemic surge last spring.
-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 7 a.m. ET