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 that will begin on Oct. 30 and continue through the following week. Putin went on to say that the non-working period could begin as early as Saturday in areas where COVID-19 infections are the highest.
“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 conference 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 COVID-19 related Wednesday, the highest one-day death count since the beginning of the pandemic. There have been more than 8 million total cases and 435,000 deaths in Russia since the pandemic began.
Putin further urged Russians to get vaccinated against COVID-19, warning Wednesday that “it’s a matter of your life and health and the health of your dear ones,”
“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.”
Russia became the first country in the world to authorize a COVID-19 vaccine in August 2020 however vaccine hesitancy continues among the public due to what some say are mixed signals by officials. Just 32% of Russians, or 45 million of the country’s approximately 146 million people, have been fully vaccinated.
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 did not understand the hesitancy about getting the vaccine, even among those in his personal entourage.
“I can’t understand what’s going on,” Putin said, “We have a reliable and efficient vaccine. The vaccine really reduces the risks of illness, grave complications and death.”