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Putin orders non-work week as COVID numbers rise in Russia

Stay home, Putin orders

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered the country’s workers to stay off work for a week starting later this month amid rising coronavirus infection and death numbers, and he strongly urged reluctant citizens to get vaccinated.

The government task force on Wednesday reported 1,028 coronavirus deaths over the past 24 hours, the highest number since the start of the pandemic. That brought Russia's total death toll to 226,353 – by far the highest in Europe.

Putin said Wednesday he supports the Cabinet’s proposal to introduce a non-working period starting Oct. 30 and extending through the following week, when four of seven days already are state holidays. He added in some regions where the situation is the most threatening, the non-working period could start as early as Saturday and be extended after Nov. 7.

“Our task today is to protect life and health of our citizens and minimize the consequences of the dangerous infection,” Putin said in a video call with top officials. “To achieve that, it's necessary to first of all slow the pace of contagion and mobilize additional reserves of the health care system, which is currently working under a high strain.”

Russia's daily coronavirus mortality numbers have been surging for weeks and topped 1,000 for the first time over the weekend amid sluggish vaccination rates, lax public attitudes toward taking precautions and the government’s reluctance to toughen restrictions.

About 45 million Russians, or 32% of the country’s nearly 146 million people, are fully vaccinated.

Putin on Wednesday strongly urged Russians to get the shots, saying “it's a matter of your life and health and the health of your dear ones.”

“There are only two ways to get over this period — to get sick or to receive a vaccine,” Putin said. "It's better to get the vaccine, why wait for the illness and its grave consequences? Please be responsible and take the necessary measures to protect yourself, your health and your close ones.”

The Russian leader, who received the domestic Sputnik V vaccine earlier this year, said he's puzzled to see hesitancy about vaccines, even among his close friends.

“I can't understand what's going on,” Putin said. “We have a reliable and efficient vaccine. The vaccine really reduces the risks of illness, grave complications and death.”



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