Russia announced a record daily number of coronavirus infections on Wednesday, with 19,768 new cases adding to pressure on the government only days after President Vladimir Putin said there were no plans for a lockdown.
The number of deaths also ticked up by a record 389, meaning that 29,217 people have been killed by Covid-19 since it reached Russia earlier this year.
Russia has listed a total of 1,693,454 cases of infection.
Like in many European countries, hospitals in Russia’s regions have been hit by a sharp increase in virus patients with pictures circulating on social media showing people lying on staircases at medical facilities and long ambulance queues unable to deliver patients for treatment.
Russia imposed one of the most restrictive lockdowns during the peak of the first wave of the pandemic from March to May, but last Thursday Putin said “we are not planning to introduce sweeping restrictive measures” or a nation-wide lockdown.
Putin spoke in favour of a regionalised approach with targeted measures in the most affected cities and regions.
Other countries, including France and England, tried to implement this strategy before abandoning it in favour of national lockdowns due to the exponential growth of virus cases.
Russian consumer safety regulator Rospotrebnadzor has reinforced protective measures such as mandatory mask-wearing in busy areas such as public transport and elevators.
It has also recommended that public events at night be banned and restaurants and bars closed, but very few regions have followed the advice.
The government has announced an aid package worth 11 billion rubles ($138.6 million) for the country’s regions which have overtaken Moscow in new cases.
Russia has reported a much lower virus fatality rate compared to other badly hit countries and Kremlin critics have accused the government of attempting to downplay the severity of the pandemic.