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Kremlin Urges Vaccinations But Rules Out New Lockdown, Despite Record Virus Deaths


People wait in line at a vaccination center in a park in Moscow's outskirts on July 1.
People wait in line at a vaccination center in a park in Moscow's outskirts on July 1.

The Kremlin says Russia will not impose a new lockdown despite a rising coronavirus death toll that has reached a daily record number for four days straight.

"Nobody wants any lockdowns. And yes, it is not up for debate," President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters on July 2, adding that vaccination was the only way out of the crisis.

"It is not being discussed, which is why...we must all be vaccinated as soon as possible," Peskov said, just hours after authorities reported 679 fatalities for the previous 24 hours, a new high after 672 deaths the previous day.

A surge in cases driven by the highly infectious Delta variant and public skepticism about locally developed vaccines prompted Putin again this week to urge Russians to get vaccinated in a televised phone-in session with the nation.

Russia, the world's fifth worst-hit country in terms of total cases, has avoided imposing a full lockdown since the first wave of the pandemic last year.

It has resumed hosting mass events, including Euro 2020 football games in St. Petersburg, the second-largest city, where 101 deaths were recorded on July 2, just shy of its record from earlier in the week of 119.

Organizers have decided that despite the high infection and death rates, a quarterfinal between Switzerland and Spain later on July 2 will go ahead as planned, with tens of thousands of spectators.

On top of the lackluster inoculation campaign, a sophisticated black market for fake vaccine certificates and negative COVID tests has cropped up in Russia.

Law enforcement officials in Moscow said on July 2 that they had detained a 33-year-old man suspected of selling forged coronavirus certificates to city residents, while police in St. Petersburg said three probes had been launched against individuals who sold fake vaccination certificates and negative PCR tests in the city and the surrounding region.

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The chief of Moscow’s health department, Aleksei Khripun, characterized the situation in the city surrounding the coronavirus as "tense" and called on all residents of the Russian capital to get vaccinated.

To spur an increase in vaccinations, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin announced on July 1 the beginning of a booster vaccine campaign across the capital.

Sobyanin said revaccination was available with any of the four Russian-registered vaccines, but that the flagship Sputnik V and the singe-dose Sputnik Light would initially be used at eight clinics across the city.

In late May, when COVID-19 cases first began to surge again, authorities in Moscow and several other regions announced mandatory vaccinations for people working in the public sector.

As of July 2, the total number of registered coronavirus cases in Russia was reported as 5,538,142, including 135,886 deaths, the highest death toll in Europe.

With reporting by Interfax, TASS, RIA Novosti, and the BBC
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