Russian region extends off-work order as COVID-19 cases soar

Nov 1, 2021, 8:39 AM | Updated: 9:09 am

MOSCOW (AP) — Authorities in Russia’s Novgorod region on Monday ordered most residents to stay off work for one more week starting Nov. 8 as coronavirus infections and deaths remained at all-time highs.

The Novgorod region was the first region to extend the nationwide non-working period between Oct. 30-Nov. 7 that was ordered by President Vladimir Putin.

Russia’s state coronavirus task force on Monday reported more than 40,000 new confirmed COVID-19 cases for the third straight day and more than 1,100 deaths for the seventh day in a row – the highest levels in each category since the start of the pandemic.

Putin has said that governments in regions where the situation is the most dire could start the non-working days earlier and extend them if needed.

In Moscow, the non-working period started on Oct. 28, with city authorities shutting down many non-essential businesses. In the Novgorod region roughly 500 kilometers (310 miles) northwest of the Russian capital, non-working days began on Oct. 25.

On Monday, Novgorod’s regional coronavirus task force reported 284 new infections — double the daily tally from a month ago when just over 140 new confirmed cases were reported each day. Governor Andrei Nikitin said there is no reason to expect the situation improving any time soon.

Russia’s daily numbers of coronavirus infections and deaths have been surging for weeks amid low vaccine uptake, lax public attitudes toward taking precautions and the government’s reluctance to toughen restrictions. Less than 35% of Russia’s nearly 146 million people have been fully vaccinated so far, even though Russia was among the first in the world to approve and roll out a coronavirus vaccine.

The nonworking period is aimed to curb the spread by keeping people out of offices and off crowded public transportation. But in some cities including Moscow, restrictions have been loosely observed, and many people rushed to popular holiday destinations, such as Russia’s Black Sea resorts, to take advantage of the break.

Anna Popova, head of Russia’s public health agency, Rospotrebnadzor, told a government meeting on Monday that infections continued to grow in 78 of the more than 80 Russian regions.

President Putin on Monday described the situation as “very difficult” during a meeting with military officials and arms makers. “More than 40,000 of those infected. It has never happened (before),” the Russian leader said.

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Russian region extends off-work order as COVID-19 cases soar