Moscow plans vaccinations as Russia's COVID-19 cases hit record amid doctor shortage

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Authorities in Moscow were preparing for mass vaccinations against COVID-19 and Russia’s daily tally of infections rose past 18,000 to a record high amid a shortage of doctors across the country, the Kremlin said on Friday.

Passengers wear protective face masks in a bus amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Moscow, Russia October 29, 2020. A sign on a window reads: "Be in shape! A mask and gloves are an obligatory outfit". REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Moscow residents who want to be vaccinated against COVID-19 may be able to do so as early as next month if large volumes of doses are supplied by then, Deputy Mayor Anastasia Rakova said.

The capital is creating a large network of specialised vaccination rooms with 2,500 high-risk people - primarily doctors and teachers - having already been vaccinated, Russian news agencies cited her as saying.

Around 9,000 Moscow residents have received both shots of the Sputnik V vaccine as part of a continuing large-scale trial, its developer was quoted by the RIA news agency as saying on Thursday. The vaccine is taken in two doses, with a 21-day gap.

Mass vaccination of the public is not yet possible, as the necessary number of doses of the vaccine have not yet been delivered, Rakova said, speaking on the Russia 24 TV channel, adding she thought that this could happen next month.

Russia is facing challenges in scaling up production of its vaccine with President Vladimir Putin on Thursday citing issues with the availability of equipment.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov praised the heroism of medical professionals but acknowledged the shortage of doctors everywhere.

Authorities were under fire across Russia.

Taxi drivers in the Urals city of Ekaterinburg staged a protest and threatened to strike over being forced to install acrylic safety screens in their vehicles, local news website said.

In Siberia, the Transbaikal regional health ministry said it was investigating after a 64-year-old woman died shortly after she had complained about a lack of medical attention.

“If I die, only the health ministry is to blame for such a negligent attitude,” Olga Sorokina had said in a video shared by website

Investigators in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don opened a criminal case over the death of five COVID-19 patients after reports that several people had died when their oxygen supply ran out at a local hospital.

Industry Minister Denis Manturov said that some 20 regions in the vast country had reported issues with their hospitals’ oxygen supplies, TASS news agency reported.

In Moscow, new coronavirus cases stood at 5,268 on Friday, below the record high reached in May, but one of the sharpest rises since lockdowns were eased earlier this year.

Russia has seen new coronavirus cases swell in recent weeks. Authorities reported 18,283 new infections on Friday, the highest tally recorded since the pandemic began, and 355 deaths.

Russia’s COVID-19 death toll stood at 27,656. It has reported 1,599,976 infections, the world’s fourth largest number after the United States, India and Brazil.

Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov, Dmitry Antonov, Maxim Rodionov and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Writing by Alexander Marrow and Polina Ivanova; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Steve Orlofsky