MOSCOW -- The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Russia has surpassed 2 million as the number of daily deaths and infections hit new highs, prompting the country’s health minister to urge regional leaders to take further steps to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The coronavirus crisis response center on November 19 reported 23,610 new infections in the previous 24 hours, including 6,438 new cases in Moscow, Russia’s worst affected area. The country's overall tally now stands at 2,015,608.
The country recorded 463 more deaths related to COVID-19 over the previous day, bringing the death toll to 34,850.
Russia, which has a huge testing program and a population of around 145 million, has the world's fifth largest number of cases after the United States, India, Brazil, and France.
Despite the surge in cases, authorities have resisted imposing lockdown restrictions across the country as they did earlier this year.
Instead, they have imposed strict rules for wearing masks and gloves, and underlined the importance of hygiene and social distancing. Some regions have brought in their own targeted measures.
Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said the heads of regions with high infection rates should use their authority to institute fresh measures to alleviate the situation, including targeted restrictions.
"Unfortunately, not all regional heads have so far exercised this right," he was quoted as saying by the RIA news agency.
President Vladimir Putin on November 18 discussed a shortage of hospital beds and ambulances with senior government officials.
His spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said on November 19 that Putin was working closely with the country’s coronavirus response teams.
"The situation with COVID is very tense," Peskov told reporters. "This topic is now a priority for the president."