Russia's COVID-19 daily death toll climbs to new pandemic high

Grave diggers wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) as a preventive measure against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) bury a person at a graveyard on the outskirts of Saint Petersburg, Russia June 25, 2021. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov

MOSCOW, July 2 (Reuters) - Russia registered a record number of daily COVID-19-related deaths on Friday amid a surge in cases across the world's largest country that the authorities blame on the infectious Delta variant.

The government's coronavirus taskforce said 679 people had died in the last 24 hours, the highest figure confirmed in a single day since the pandemic began.

It also reported 23,218 new infections in the last 24 hours, including 6,893 in Moscow.

The Russian capital, the epicentre of the outbreak throughout the pandemic, is racing to repurpose hospitals to treat an influx of patients, Anastasiya Rakova, the city's deputy mayor, said.

"Now, with this explosive growth in infections, this (hospital) capacity is no longer enough and we will additionally add other hospitals again to combat the virus, as fast as possible, I hope," Russian news agencies quoted Rakova as saying.

"(But) we'll do everything possible not to declare a lockdown," she said.

The surge in cases has prompted officials to impose an array of measures to compel or encourage people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Vaccines are widely available, but demand for the shots has been tepid and polls show many people don't want to have them.

Around 2.6 million people in Moscow have had at least the first component of a vaccine out of a population of more than 12.5 million, Rakova was cited as saying.

Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov and Maria Kiselyova; Writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Andrew Osborn

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