Moscow: Coronavirus infections continue to soar in Russia, with the authorities reporting 20,182 new cases on Thursday and 568 further deaths. Both tallies are the highest since late January.
A surge in infections that hit Russia earlier this month comes as the authorities struggle to overcome widespread vaccine hesitancy and immunize its 146 million people. As of Wednesday, only 20.7 million - or just 14% of the the population - have received at least one shot of the vaccine, while 16.7 million - 11% - have been fully immunized.
In response to the soaring contagions, authorities in 14 Russian regions have made vaccinations mandatory for certain groups of people, such as state officials, those employed in retail, healthcare, education, restaurants and other service-providing businesses. In most of those regions, eligible companies are required to ensure vaccination of at least 60% of their staff in the coming months.
Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said Wednesday that over the past week, vaccinations rates have increased nearly two-fold.
Russia's state coronavirus task force has reported a total of over 5.3 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the pandemic and more than 131,000 deaths.