Russia’s government declared Wednesday a non-working week starting Oct. 30 amid a record number of COVID-19 infections and deaths.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he supported a Cabinet proposal to introduce the non-working period Oct. 30 and extend it through the following week, The Associated Press (AP) reported. He also said the non-working period could begin as early as Saturday in regions where COVID-19 infections are particularly high.
“Our task today is to protect life and health of our citizens and minimize the consequences of the dangerous infection,” Putin said in a video call with top Russian officials. “To achieve that, it’s necessary to first of all slow the pace of contagion and mobilize additional reserves of the health care system, which is currently working under a high strain.”
Russia reported more than 34,000 new cases and 1,028 deaths due to COVID-19 on Wednesday, the largest one-day death count since the start of the pandemic, according to Reuters. In total, there have been more than 8 million total cases and 435,000 deaths in Russia since the pandemic began.
Putin also urged Russians to get vaccinated against COVID-19, stating Wednesday that “it’s a matter of your life and health and the health of your dear ones,” The AP reported.
“There are only two ways to get over this period — to get sick or to receive a vaccine,” he said. “It’s better to get the vaccine, why wait for the illness and its grave consequences? Please be responsible and take the necessary measures to protect yourself, your health and your close ones.” (RELATED: Russia Threatens To Ban YouTube After State-Run Channels Got Dinged For COVID Misinformation)
Russia became the first country in the world to authorize a COVID-19 vaccine in August 2020. But vaccine hesitancy has persisted among the public due to what some blame on mixed signals by officials. Just 32% of Russians, or 45 million of the country’s roughly 146 million people, are fully vaccinated according to Reuters.
Putin received his first dose of the domestic Sputnik V vaccine in late March and his second dose in April. He said in remarks Wednesday that he was confused to see hesitancy about the vaccines, even among those in his personal entourage.
“I can’t understand what’s going on,” Putin said, according to The AP. “We have a reliable and efficient vaccine. The vaccine really reduces the risks of illness, grave complications and death.”