Moscow sees steep spike in coronavirus infections

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MOSCOW (AFP) – Russian health officials reported a 75 per cent surge in daily coronavirus cases on Thursday (April 29) in Moscow, where the authorities have hesitated to reimpose strict measures to contain the outbreak.

The Russian capital has been the epicentre of the country’s coronavirus outbreak, with cases in Moscow growing by around 2,000 per day recently.

On Thursday, health officials reported 3,215 new cases in Moscow, compared with 1,840 the previous day.

The steep jump comes as officials push to boost Russia’s lagging vaccination drive, while maintaining that the worst of the country’s outbreak had passed.

Mayor Sergei Sobyanin warned last week of the danger of the rising number of cases in Moscow, but has so far withheld from introducing new restrictions.

Life in Moscow has all but returned to normal since January, when officials ended restrictions on in-office workers and allowed bars and restaurants to work through the night.

Russia has avoided reimposing a second lockdown like those seen across Europe to buttress a struggling economy.

The authorities have banked on the country’s three home-grown vaccines – Sputnik V, EpiVacCorona and CoviVac – to curtail the pandemic, but the country’s jab drive is moving at a slow clip.

Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova on Tuesday said that 7.7 million Russians have been fully vaccinated, while 12.1 million have received their first dose in the country of 144 million people.

Polls show many Russians are sceptical of coronavirus vaccines.

To encourage vulnerable seniors in Moscow to get vaccinated, Mr Sobyanin has offered the over-60s gift cards of 1,000 rubles (S$17.85) that they can spend at shops in the Russian capital if they get a jab.

President Vladimir Putin has said Russia will be able to lift its remaining virus restrictions – which include closed borders – when around 70 per cent of the country’s adult population is vaccinated.

Last week, he said he hoped that would happen by autumn and appealed for all Russians to get a vaccine.

Russia has recorded the fifth-highest number of coronavirus cases in the world, with a total of