Moscow mayor says COVID-19 situation stabilising, but cases still high

Hospital for patients infected with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Moscow
A medical specialist wearing protective gear transports a person on a stretcher at a hospital for patients infected with COVID-19, on the outskirts of Moscow, Russia July 2, 2021. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva

MOSCOW, July 8 (Reuters) - Moscow's mayor said the COVID-19 situation was gradually stabilising after a surge in infections blamed on the more contagious Delta variant, but the new daily case tally remained high nationwide on Thursday.

The coronavirus task force reported 24,818 new cases in the last 24 hours, including 6,040 in the capital. Russia also reported 734 coronavirus-related deaths, close to a record daily high.

Around 66% of COVID-19 cases that Russia identified in June and early July were the Delta variant, Anna Popova, consumer health watchdog head, was quoted by TASS new agency as saying.

Some of the cases were blamed on other variants, though the Delta was dominating, Popova said.

"Today, there are no threats or risks that would tell us that we need a lockdown or other strict measures, there is no need in that," Popova told the state TV, TASS reported.

Popova said only 0.7% of Russians who were fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus caught it.

Officials have been scrambling to encourage or compel Russians to get vaccinated since infections began rising steeply last month. Demand for vaccination had been tepid, but authorities say it has now picked up significantly.

Adding to concerns about Russian vaccines, Sputnik V in particular, was lack of regulatory approval by some Western nations.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on her Facebook account that calls from European nations such as France to "say no" to Russian vaccines were "unacceptable," or a hybrid of "racism, imperial hegemony and neo-Nazism".

The mayor of Moscow, Russia's worst-hit region throughout the pandemic, told residents that hospital admissions for COVID-19 patients were still very high, though down slightly from a peak last week.

Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said the city of more than 12.5 million was now vaccinating around 100,000 people a day, giving authorities room not to impose new restrictions.

Police in Moscow said they had opened 55 criminal cases over fake certificates for vaccinations and PCR tests. Moscow residents need to be able to prove they have had a vaccine, a negative test or immunity to be able to visit cafes or bars.

Russia has confirmed 5,707,452 coronavirus cases since the pandemic began 18 months ago. read more

Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov in Moscow Writing by Tom Balmforth and Andrey Ostroukh Editing by Giles Elgood and Matthew Lewis

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