Russia on Friday recorded another record of daily coronavirus deaths as authorities hoped to stem 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. The latest deaths brought the total toll to 236,220, by far the highest in Europe.
To contain the spread of infection, Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a non-working period from Oct. 30 to Nov. 7, when most state organizations 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 starting from Thursday, shutting kindergartens, schools, gyms, entertainment venues and most stores, and restricting restaurants and cafes to only takeout or delivery. Food stores, pharmacies and companies operating key infrastructure remained open.
Access to museums, theatres, concert halls and other venues is limited to people holding digital codes on their smartphones to prove they have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19, a practice that will remain in place after Nov. 7. Unvaccinated people older than 60 have been ordered to stay home.
Some entrepreneurs said they were trying to keep their businesses going as they had not been promised state aid.
Elena, an administrator at a Moscow beauty salon, told Reuters she would continue admitting customers by appointment only.
“To hell with them … we’re going to work. We’ll just put up curtains…. During the last lockdown we sat there for almost a month and there was almost no help. We have to survive somehow,” she said.
The number of new daily cases in Russia rose by 39,849 on Friday, just below an all-time record reported the previous day. The government hopes that by keeping most people out of offices and public transportation, the non-working period would help curb the spread, but many Russians rushed to use the surprise time off for a seaside vacation in the country’s south or to take a trip to Egypt or Turkey.
-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 7:50 a.m. ET
What’s happening in Canada
What’s happening around the world
As of early Friday morning, more than 245.6 million COVID-19 cases had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s online coronavirus database. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.9 million.
The World Health Organization said Friday that its director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is running unopposed for a second five-year term. The UN health agency made the announcement after the deadline for candidacies for the next term expired on Sept. 23. The formal selection of the next director general takes place at the WHO’s next assembly in May.
Tedros, an Ethiopian national who is the first African to head WHO, has overseen the agency’s complex response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has overshadowed his tenure. Trained in biology and infectious diseases with a doctorate in community health, he is also the first WHO chief who is not a medical doctor.
In Europe, health officials in Poland on Friday reported 9,387 new cases — the highest figure the country has seen since April — with 102 deaths. The government will have to consider tighter curbs if average daily cases exceed 7,000 at the end of the month, Health Minister Adam Niedzielski was quoted as saying earlier this week.
In the Americas, the union representing New York City firefighters asked a state court on Thursday to bar Mayor Bill de Blasio from enforcing his order requiring all city employees to get the COVID-19 vaccination to continue working. Uniformed Firefighters Association leaders have already told unvaccinated firefighters to report for duty in defiance of de Blasio’s order, essentially daring the city to send them home.
In Africa, Kenya’s health ministry on Thursday reported 80 new cases and four additional deaths.
In the Asia-Pacific region, the island nation of Tonga has reported its first-ever case of COVID-19 after a traveller from New Zealand tested positive. Tonga is among the few remaining nations in the world that have avoided outbreaks of the virus. Like many of its neighbours, Tonga’s isolation has helped keep it safe but it faces big challenges should the virus take hold due to an under-resourced health system. The traveller has been isolating at a quarantine hotel.
Meanwhile, more than 2,000 tourists visiting China’s Inner Mongolia region have been sent to hotels to undergo two weeks of quarantine. The move follows reports of an outbreak of COVID-19 in the vast, lightly populated region that attracts visitors with its mountains, lakes and grasslands.
In the Middle East, Iran on Thursday reported 159 additional deaths and 11,409 additional cases of COVID-19.
-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 8:15 a.m. ET