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Moscow, St. Petersburg Report Record COVID-19 Deaths As Infections Spike In Russia

Medical workers transport a patient suspected of having COVID-19 to a hospital in Moscow on June 26.
Medical workers transport a patient suspected of having COVID-19 to a hospital in Moscow on June 26.

Moscow and St. Petersburg have reported record numbers of daily COVID-19 deaths as Russia battles a new deadly surge in infections.

Moscow on June 28 said it had registered 124 fatalities over the previous 24 hours, a day after the Russian capital topped more than 100 daily deaths for the first time. Meanwhile in St. Petersburg, 110 deaths were reported.

The total number of deaths across Russia was 611 over the past 24 hours, the government coronavirus task force said June 28, pushing the national death toll to 133,893.

The federal statistics agency, which has kept a separate count, has reported a much higher toll of around 270,000 deaths from April 2020 to April 2021. The actual death toll is believed to be even higher due to underreporting by officials.

The daily records come amid a wave of infections with the fast-spreading, highly infectious Delta variant that was first identified in India. Officials say the surge in new cases across Russia has been aggravated further by a slow vaccination rate because of vaccine reluctance among many Russians.

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Russia reported 21,650 new coronavirus cases on June 28, including 7,246 in Moscow, taking the official national tally since the pandemic began to 5,472,941.

Moscow has rushed to introduce new restrictions to brace against the new wave, with businesses being ordered to send home 30 percent of nonvaccinated employees.

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As of June 28, Restaurants are authorized to allow inside only those patrons who have been inoculated or infected within the previous six months.

St. Petersburg, meanwhile, has hosted six Euro 2020 matches and is due to host a quarterfinal on July 2, with spectator numbers capped at half of stadium capacity, which is still in excess of 26,000 people.

The AFP news agency quoted a spokesman for UEFA, European soccer's governing body, as saying on June 28 that the quarterfinal will "take place as planned," and that the surge in cases "changes absolutely nothing."

While the city has tightened some restrictions, including banning food sales at its Euro 2020 fan zones, authorities on June 25 allowed student graduation celebrations, including a concert that drew thousands of spectators.

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Russia was the first country to approve a vaccine against COVID-19, but concerns over possible side effects and the lack of a state campaign to encourage people to receive shots has led to sluggish vaccination rates.

The government is now taking new steps to encourage people to get vaccinated.

As of August 1, the popular resort region of Krasnodar in the south of Russia is banning guests who have not received their shots from staying at hotels.

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Other Russian regions are requiring certain workers, such as those in the restaurant industry, to be vaccinated.

The region of Bryansk in western Russia announced last week it would require all residents -- with some exceptions -- to be vaccinated.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters
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