Authorities shut down the biggest vaccination centre in Russia's capital Moscow amid a record number of COVID-19 deaths for a third time this month. The vaccination centre that was set up in Gostiny Dvor, a huge exhibition space, was closed Monday in preparation for "cultural events," officials said. The closure came as Russia's state coronavirus task force reported 895 new fatalities and 25,110 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday. The previous record of 890 deaths was registered on Sunday, while 887 deaths were reported on Friday. Daily infections have nearly quadrupled from about 1,100 in early September to about 4,000 this week in Moscow.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said malls and government services centres will start offering free rapid COVID-19 tests.
Several regions have limited attendance of people at mass events and restricted access to theaters, cinemas, restaurants, bars, and other public places.
But critics argue that such measures aren't enough as Russia's health care system shows signs of being overwhelmed by the surge in cases, blamed by officials on lack of vaccination. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the "main cause" of the record deaths reported on Tuesday was "the insufficient level of vaccination."
"The virus is becoming angrier, and the level of vaccination is insufficient. And as a rule, those who haven't been vaccinated get seriously ill and, unfortunately, die," Peskov told reporters Tuesday.
Businesses are operating as usual and mask mandates "loosely enforced" in some areas including Moscow and St. Petersburg.
There have also been reports of ambulances ferrying patients to hospitals in St. Petersburg, the country's second-largest city, and a coronavirus patient being driven to a local government building in city of Vladimir 180 kilometers east of Moscow after an ambulance crew failed to find a hospital bed for her.
As of last week, 33.5% of Russia's 146-million population have received at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine, and just 27.4 had been fully vaccinated. Peskov has attributed the slow pace of the immunization drive to "an insufficiently active campaign explaining that there are no alternatives" to vaccination.
(With Inputs from Associated Press)