Russia’s coronavirus infections exceed 8 million

Medical workers carry a patient suspected of having coronavirus on a stretcher at a hospital in Kommunarka, outside Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021. Russia’s daily death toll from COVID-19 has exceeded 1000 for the first time as the country faces a sustained wave of rising infections. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s total number of coronavirus infections has topped 8 million, more than 5% of the population, and the daily infection toll hit a new record.

The national coronavirus task force said Monday that 34,325 new infections over the past day raised the pandemic-long total to 8,027,012. It also said 998 people died of COVID-19 in the previous day, bringing the total number of deaths to 224,310.

The death toll is minutely lower than the record 1,002 tallied on Saturday, but shows the country continuing to struggle with the virus as vaccination rates remain low.

Russian authorities have tried to speed up the pace of vaccinations with lotteries, bonuses and other incentives, but widespread vaccine skepticism and conflicting signals from officials stymied the efforts. The task force said Monday that about 45 million Russians, or 32% of the country’s nearly 146 million people, are fully vaccinated.

Despite the mounting toll, the Kremlin has ruled out a new nationwide lockdown like the one early on in the pandemic that badly hurt the economy, eroding President Vladimir Putin’s popularity. Instead, it has delegated the power to enforce coronavirus restrictions to regional authorities.

Some of Russia’s 85 regions have restricted attendance at large public events and limited access to theaters, restaurants and other venues. However, daily life is going on largely as normal in Moscow, St. Petersburg and many other Russian cities.

The highest concentrations of cases are mostly in comparatively urbanized western Russia and in the developed areas along the Pacific Coast such as Vladivostok and Khabarovsk, but the sparsely populated Siberian region of Sakha and Chukotka in the extreme northeast also show high case rates of more than 150 infections per 100,000 people over a seven-day period.

Russia’s coronavirus death toll is Europe’s largest. The official record ranks Russia as having the fifth-most pandemic deaths in the world following the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico.

However, state statistics agency Rosstat, which also counts deaths in which the virus wasn’t considered the main cause, has reported a much higher pandemic death toll — about 418,000 people with COVID-19 as of August. Based on that number, Russia would rank as the fourth hardest-hit nation in the world, ahead of Mexico.

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