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Russia proposes week-long workplace shutdown as COVID deaths hit new record

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MOSCOW, (Reuters) – Russia today proposed to shut workplaces for a week at the start of November as its daily COVID-19 death toll hit a new record and a sharp rise in cases continued, leading to fresh calls from the Kremlin for people to get vaccinated.

Russia’s COVID-19 task force reported 1,015 coronavirus-related deaths in the past 24 hours, the highest single-day toll since the start of the pandemic, as well as 33,740 new infections, just shy of a record daily rise, with authorities blaming the surge on a slow vaccination campaign.

Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova proposed that Oct. 30 to Nov. 7 be deemed non-working days to combat rising infections. Russia has taken similar steps at previous times during the pandemic, notably for around a month when it first struck in March last year.

Speaking at a government coronavirus meeting, Golikova said people should have to present QR codes on their mobile phones to show they were vaccinated or had recovered from COVID, in order to get access to some public events or places.

Russia’s regions should take independent decisions about whether unvaccinated pensioners should be told to self-isolate and about offering incentives such as extra holiday to vaccinated workers, she said.

The Kremlin, too, repeated the call for people to get inoculated.

“There is a tradition of blaming the state for everything. Of course, the state feels and knows its share of responsibility,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters, acknowledging more could have been done to explain the importance of vaccination to the public.

“But a more responsible position is needed from all citizens of our country,” he said. “Now each of us must show responsibility…and get vaccinated.”

Many Russian regions plan to keep cafes, museums and other public venues open only to those who have recently recovered from COVID-19 or have proof of inoculation with a Russian vaccine or a negative coronavirus test.

The Orlovsky region, around 325 km (200 miles) south of Moscow, had run out of hospital beds, the RIA news agency quoted Governor Andrei Klychkov as saying.

Russia’s health ministry last week asked retired vaccinated medics to return to hospitals to help tackle the latest wave of the virus.

Lawmaker Andrei Makarov today said 1,100 medical professionals had died due to complications from COVID-19 so far this year, up from 485 in 2020, TASS news agency reported.

In Crimea, the peninsula Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, health officials said people working in sectors such as tourism, hospitality, education and healthcare would have to get vaccinated.

Employers have been instructed to ensure that at least 80% of their employees are inoculated with the first dose of a vaccine by Nov. 15, TASS cited the regional branch of health regulator Rospotrebnadzor as saying.

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