Kremlin dismayed by slow rate of vaccinations amid COVID-19 surge

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MOSCOW (Reuters) -The Kremlin said on Tuesday it was dismayed by Russia’s slow rate of COVID-19 vaccinations as a surge in coronavirus cases prompted several regions to impose new restrictions and ramp up hospital capacity.

FILE PHOTO: A woman receives a dose of Sputnik V (Gam-COVID-Vac) vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a mobile vaccination centre in a dacha community near the village of Poyarkovo in Moscow Region, Russia May 31, 2021. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina/File Photo

The government task force reported more than 14,700 infections on Sunday, the largest one-day tally since February. Tuesday’s case load of 14,185 was almost as high, with 6,805 of them in Moscow.

St Petersburg, which is hosting matches in the Euro 2020 soccer finals, and Moscow said over the weekend they were imposing new curbs.

“We should probably all be unsatisfied with the rates of vaccination,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “They leave a lot to be desired.”

Russia began rolling out its Sputnik V shot in December and it was rapidly opened up to everyone in Moscow, but take-up has been slow. Moscow plans to give away cars in a prize draw for those who get the shot to encourage vaccination.

Putin said on Saturday that 18 million Russians had so far been vaccinated against COVID-19, out of a population of more than 144 million.

That is a far lower share of the population than in Western countries. Russia has been exporting vaccine doses, and the authorities say the problem is not supply but demand.

The far eastern region of Primorye said on Tuesday two hospitals would open in coming days in the cities of Ussuriysk and Vladivostok, and that hundreds of new beds had been created since April to treat COVID-19 patients.

“We’re now seeing a similar pattern to last year’s spring wave. First there was an increase in Europe, a few weeks later in central Russia, and 2-3 weeks after that in large cities of Primorye,” said the local health minister.

Moscow region banned mass public events until July 15. The Siberian region of Buryatia closed public areas including parks, squares and swimming pools until July 1. It said it needed more intensive care beds after a rise in cases this month.

Restaurants in the Arctic region of Murmansk were prohibited from working overnight and a third of state employees were told to work remotely, the RIA news agency reported.

In the oil-producing Siberian region of Yugra, authorities banned large public events of more than 20 people. It said workers returning to the region from June 20 would have to first test negative for COVID-19 or show they have been vaccinated.

Reporting by Dmitry Antonov, Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber, Maxim RodionovWriting by Tom BalmforthEditing by Catherine Evans

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