Russia’s daily count of new coronavirus infections surged to more than 121,000 on Sunday, an eightfold increase compared with the beginning of the month as the highly contagious omicron variant spreads through the country.
The state coronavirus task force reported 121,288 new infections over the past 24 hours — an all-time high and 8,000 more than a day earlier. The country’s infection numbers have rocketed since early January, when only about 15,000 new cases per day were tallied.
The task force said 668 people died of COVID-19 in the past day, bring Russia’s total fatality count for the pandemic to 330,728, by far the largest in Europe.
Despite the surging infections, authorities have avoided imposing any major restrictions to stem the surge, saying the health system has been coping with the influx of patients.
Earlier this month, parliament indefinitely postponed introducing restrictions on the unvaccinated that would have proven unpopular among vaccine-hesitant Russians. And this week health officials cut the required isolation period for those who came in contact with COVID-19 patients from 14 days to seven without offering any explanation for the move.
Russia has had only one national lockdown, in 2020, although many Russians were ordered to stay off work for a week last October amid a jump in reported cases and deaths.
Russia’s state statistics agency, which uses broader counting criteria than the task force, puts the country’s pandemic death toll much higher, saying the number of virus-linked deaths between April 2020 and October 2021 was over 625,000.
Just about half of Russia’s 146 million people have been fully vaccinated, even though Russia boasted about being the first country in the world to approve and roll out a domestically developed coronavirus vaccine.