MOSCOW (AP) — Russian authorities on Friday reported over 98,000 new confirmed coronavirus cases, but the Kremlin said the actual number is likely to be much greater as the highly contagious omicron variant continues to rage through the vast country.
Russia’s state coronavirus task force registered 98,040 new infections tallied over the past 24 hours — another all-time high for the country that in recent weeks has faced its biggest surge of contagions in the pandemic.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that “it is obvious that this number is higher and possibly much higher,” because “many people don’t get tested” and have no symptoms. Peskov noted that Russia’s numbers are “so far lower than in Western European countries, than in the U.S., so one can’t rule out that they will grow further.”
The Kremlin spokesman also admitted that a lot of people in the presidential administration have gotten infected with the virus. “The vast majority continue to work from home after having isolated themselves,” Peskov said. “This explosive contagiousness of the omicron, it demonstrates itself in full.”
Coronavirus infections in Russia started to soar nearly three weeks ago, with daily tallies of new cases spiking from about 15,000 on Jan. 10 to almost 100,000 on Friday. Russian authorities, however, have avoided imposing any major restrictions to stem the surge, saying the health system has been coping with the influx of patients.
Peskov said Friday there was no point in imposing “excessive restrictions” and cited “the world’s experience.”
Earlier this month, parliament indefinitely postponed introducing restrictions on the unvaccinated that would have proven unpopular among vaccine-hesitant Russians. And this week health officials cut the required isolation period for those who came in contact with COVID-19 patients from 14 days to seven without offering any explanation for the move.
Russia had only one national lockdown, in 2020, although many Russians were ordered to stay off work for a week in October 2021 amid a jump in reported cases and deaths.
In all, Russia’s state coronavirus task force has reported more than 11.5 million confirmed cases and 329,443 deaths, by far the largest death toll in Europe. Russia’s state statistics agency, which uses broader counting criteria, puts the death toll much higher, saying the overall number of virus-linked deaths between April 2020 and October 2021 was over 625,000.
Just about half of Russia’s 146 million people have been fully vaccinated, even though Russia boasted about being the first country in the world to approve and roll out a domestically developed coronavirus vaccine.
Since July 2021, everyone who completed their vaccination more than six months ago has been eligible for a booster. But according to Gogov.ru, a website that tracks vaccinations across the country, as of Friday only 9.7 million people out of 24 million who qualified have received their booster shots.
This week, Russia started vaccinating children aged 12-17 with a domestically developed shot, Spuntik M — a version of the Sputnik V vaccine that contains a smaller dose — amid reports of a sharp spike of COVID-19 infections and hospitalization in children.
Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.