Russia set another new record for daily coronavirus fatalities Tuesday, as regions across the country continue to roll out new measures to boost low vaccination rates.
Russia is currently reporting more deaths than every country in the world except the U.S.
An aggressive fourth wave of the coronavirus has hit the country hard, and with under one in three Russians fully-vaccinated, hospitals face being overloaded with an influx of patients.
Government officials, including President Vladimir Putin have become increasingly frustrated at Russians’ low uptake of the vaccine in recent weeks, as the country’s top coronavirus doctor, Denis Protsenko, said the country faces a “near-critical” situation with winter approaching.
The Kremlin admitted Tuesday that its efforts to convince Russians to get vaccinated “had flaws,” but added that citizens themselves “have to be more responsible.”
“The state always feels and knows its share of responsibility,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Tuesday. “And of course, not everything that needed to be done was done in terms of an information campaign on the lack of alternatives and the importance of vaccination.”
“At the same time, every citizen needs to be more responsible,” he added.
Peskov also dismissed the idea that Russians' vaccine hesitancy was related to the lack of foreign-made jabs in the country.
St. Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city of some five million residents, became the latest region to announce the rollout of vaccine passports for entry into crowded places on Monday in a desperate attempt to encourage Russians to get vaccinated. Independent polls show half the country’s citizens do not plan to take a vaccine against the coronavirus — a figure which has not changed significantly since the start of a nationwide vaccination campaign at the end of 2020.
Other regions have rolled out mandatory vaccination requirements for workers in key parts of the economy, such as the public sector, hospitality and retail.
But in the pandemic’s epicenter of Moscow, there are few restrictions in place, and the Kremlin has ruled out a nationwide lockdown.
The country reported 33,740 new coronavirus infections Tuesday, with the virus gaining ground in almost every part of the country.
Russia’s official death toll from the pandemic stands at 225,325 — Europe’s highest. The country has been accused of downplaying the virus, and excess deaths since the start of the pandemic are at least 660,000, according to The Moscow Times’ analysis of official statistics.