Russia Keeps Seeing Higher Daily COVID Deaths

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia registered another daily record of coronavirus deaths Tuesday as rapidly surging contagion raised pressure on the country's health care system.

The government task force reported 1,015 coronavirus deaths over the past 24 hours, the highest number since the start of the pandemic. That brought the total death toll to 225,325 -- by far the highest in Europe. It also registered 33,740 new infections over the past day.

The daily coronavirus mortality numbers have been surging for weeks and topped 1,000 for the first time over the weekend amid sluggish vaccination rates and the government's reluctance to toughen restrictions.

Russian authorities have tried to speed up the pace of vaccinations with lotteries, bonuses and other incentives, but widespread vaccine skepticism and conflicting signals from officials have hampered the efforts. The task force said Monday that about 45 million Russians, or 32% of the country's nearly 146 million people, are fully vaccinated.

The Kremlin has ruled out a new nationwide lockdown like the one early on in the pandemic that dealt a heavy blow to the economy and eroded President Vladimir Putin's popularity. It has empowered authorities acros the country's 11 time zones to decide on restrictions depending on the local situation.

Many of Russia's 85 regions already have restricted attendance at large public events and limited access to theaters, restaurants and other venues.

St. Petersburg, Russia's second-largest city, joined others Monday, ordering digital codes proving vaccination or recovery from infection for access to conferences and sports events beginning Nov. 1. Starting on Nov. 15, those codes will also be required at movies, theaters, museums and gyms, and on Dec. 1 they become mandatory at restaurants, cafes and some stores.

The city has reported the nation's second-largest number of new infections after Moscow, where authorities so far have refrained from tightening coronavirus restrictions despite the mounting caseload, and daily life in the capital has remained largely as normal.

The government task force has registered more than 8 million infections and its official COVID-19 toll ranks Russia as having the fifth-most pandemic deaths in the world following the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico.