Russia reported a fifth straight day of record deaths from COVID-19, as authorities struggle to cope with a new wave of cases that's been exacerbated by low vaccination rates.
On July 3, the national coronavirus task force reported 697 deaths over the past 24 hours, along with nearly 24,400 new infections.
It's the fifth day in a row for record deaths, and the highest number of new infections since January, when the country was still grappling with a second wave.
Like in other countries, Russia has blamed the surge on the Delta variant of COVID-19, which is much more infectious than other strains.
Western health officials have said that major vaccines like Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson all provide protections against the Delta variant. Russian officials say the country's Sputnik V vaccine also provides protection, though it's unclear to what degree.
Fueling Russia's newest wave of infections is the reluctance of many Russians to actually get vaccinated. Only around 15 percent of the population has gotten the vaccine, with many citing distrust of the science, and authorities more generally, as the reason.
Some Russian regions, including Moscow, have begun reimposing restrictions on restaurants, bars, and other public venues. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin announced the beginning of a booster campaign, in an effort to stem the surge.
Earlier this week, during his annual nationally televised call-in show, President Vladimir Putin urged people to get vaccinated.
But many observers said he also undermined the message by declining to strongly support vaccine mandates for some Russians, by suggesting without evidence that Western-made vaccines are dangerous, and by underplaying the scale of the vaccination problem more broadly.
Russia was the first country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine in a controversial decision made in advance of late-stage trials and announced by Putin himself in August.
But problems with distribution and doubts about the shot, which has been recognized as safe and effective by the international scientific community, has hampered efforts at mass inoculation.