Russia on Friday recorded another record for daily coronavirus deaths as authorities hoped to stem the contagion by preventing most people from working.
The government’s coronavirus task force reported 1,163 deaths in 24 hours, the highest daily number since the start of the pandemic. The latest deaths brought the total death toll to 236,220, by far the highest in Europe.
The task force only counts deaths directly caused by the virus. State statistics service Rosstat, which counts deaths from COVID-19 under broader criteria, released figures on Friday indicating a much higher toll.
Rosstat counted 44,265 deaths in September either directly caused by the virus or in which it was a contributing cause. That would bring the death toll during the pandemic in Russia to around 461,000 by the end of September, nearly double the task force’s tally.
The two death figures put Russia among the worst-affected countries in the world during the pandemic.
To contain the spread of the infection, Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a period of non-work from October 30 to November 7, when most state organizations and private companies must cease operations. He encouraged the worst-affected regions in Russia to start earlier, and some have ordered most residents to stop working earlier this week.
Moscow introduced the measure from Thursday, closing kindergartens, schools, gymnasiums, entertainment venues and most stores, and limiting restaurants and cafes to take-out or delivery. Food stores, pharmacies and businesses operating key infrastructure remained open.
Access to museums, theaters, concert halls and other venues is limited to people with digital codes on their smartphones to prove they have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19, a practice that will remain in place after November 7. . Unvaccinated people over 60 have been ordered to stay at home.
The number of new daily cases in Russia rose to 39,849 on Friday, just below the all-time high recorded the day before. The government is hoping that by keeping most people out of offices and public transport, the non-work period will help curb the spread, but many Russians have rushed to take advantage of the surprise vacation by the sea. in the south of the country or to take a trip to Egypt or Turkey.
Record number of cases in Ukraine
The Ukrainian president, meanwhile, pleaded with citizens on Friday to get vaccinated quickly as daily infections hit a new record, fueled by slow vaccination.
The Department of Health reported 26,870 new confirmed infections in 24 hours – the highest level since the start of the pandemic. It recorded 648 daily deaths to bring the toll of the pandemic to 66,852.
Authorities blamed the upsurge in infections and deaths on low immunization levels. Only 16.4 percent of the people in this country of 41 million are fully vaccinated, the second lowest rate in Europe after Armenia’s seven percent.
The slow pace of vaccinations in Ukraine and other Eastern European countries has been blamed on public distrust of the authorities, which has contributed to the widespread dissemination of disinformation and conspiracy theories on vaccines.
“I urge you to turn off social media and turn on your brain,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Ukrainians. “The only way to avoid a collapse is to increase the share of people vaccinated. I ask the regional authorities to wake up and go to bed with this thought.”
In a bid to stem the contagion, Ukrainian authorities have asked teachers, government employees and other workers to get their full immunizations before November 8, or their salaries will be suspended. In addition, proof of vaccination or a negative test is now required to board planes, trains and long-distance buses.
-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 10:15 a.m.ET
What is happening in Canada
The Canadian decision on whether or not to approve Pfizer Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine for people aged 5 to 11 will not be made until mid-November or late November, a senior official said on Friday.
“I think we are still at least a few weeks away from a final decision,” Health Canada chief medical officer Dr Supriya Sharma said on Friday during a public briefing on COVID-19 in Canada.
-From Reuters and CBC News, latest update 11:55 a.m.ET
What is happening in the world
As of Friday morning, more than 245.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins University online coronavirus database. The death toll worldwide was over 4.9 million.
The World Health Organization announced on Friday that its director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, was unopposed for a second five-year term. The United Nations health agency made the announcement after the deadline to apply for the next term expired on September 23. The official selection of the next Director-General takes place at the next WHO assembly in May.
Tedros, an Ethiopian national who is the first African to lead the WHO, oversaw the agency’s complex response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has eclipsed his tenure. Trained in biology and infectious diseases with a doctorate in community health, he is also the first WHO chief not to be a doctor.
In Europe, Polish health authorities on Friday reported 9,387 new cases – the highest figure the country has seen since April – with 102 deaths. The government will have to consider tighter restrictions if the average number of daily cases exceeds 7,000 by the end of the month, Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said earlier this week.
In the Americas, the union representing the New York firefighters on Thursday asked a state court to bar Mayor Bill de Blasio from enforcing his order requiring all city employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to continue to work. Uniformed firefighters’ association leaders have previously told unvaccinated firefighters to report for work in defiance of de Blasio’s order, essentially defying the city to send them home.
In Africa, Kenya’s health ministry on Thursday reported 80 new cases and four more deaths.
In the Asia Pacific region, the island nation of Tonga reported its first-ever case of COVID-19 after a traveler from New Zealand tested positive. Tonga is one of the few countries in the world to have avoided epidemics of the virus. Like many of its neighbors, Tonga’s isolation has helped keep them safe, but faces great challenges if the virus takes hold due to an underfunded health care system. The traveler isolated himself in a quarantine hotel.
Meanwhile, more than 2,000 tourists visiting China’s Inner Mongolia region have been sent to hotels to undergo two weeks of quarantine. The move follows reports of a COVID-19 outbreak in the vast, sparsely populated region that draws visitors with its mountains, lakes and grasslands.
In the Middle EastIran reported 159 more deaths and 11,409 more cases of COVID-19 on Thursday.
-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated 8:15 a.m.ET