Russia is reporting a record daily count of new coronavirus infections of 180,071, a tenfold spike from a month ago as the highly contagious omicron variant spreads through the country.
The figure released by the state coronavirus task force on Sunday was about 2,800 cases more than recorded the previous day and continued a surge that began in mid-January, when daily new cases were around 17,000.
Although the number of infections has increased dramatically in recent weeks, the task force reported that daily deaths from COVID-19 are holding steady or marginally declining: 661 deaths were recorded over the past 24 hours, compared with 796 on Jan. 6.
For the entire course of the pandemic, the task force has reported 12.8 million infections and 335,414 deaths.
President Vladimir Putin said last week that his government is considering loosening some coronavirus restrictions, despite the soaring infections.
Putin told Russia's top business association that the authorities are not planning any lockdowns or other additional restrictions because of the surge. Moreover, the government is considering lifting restrictions for those who come into contact with COVID-19 patients.
Existing regulations mandate that people in that position must self-isolate for seven days.
Faced with the biggest virus surge yet, Russian authorities have generally resisted imposing any major restrictions and repeatedly rejected the idea of introducing a lockdown.
Russia had only one, six-week lockdown in 2020, and in October 2021 many people were also ordered to stay off work for about a week. But beside that, life in most of the country remained largely normal, with even mask mandates being loosely enforced.
In recent weeks, a growing number of Russian regions have started introducing restrictions for those under 18, as officials noted that the current surge affects children much more than the previous ones. In many areas, schools have either switched to remote learning or extended holidays for students. In St. Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city, minors have been temporarily barred from most public places.
Russia started vaccinating children aged 12-17 only last month with the domestically developed Sputnik M jab, which is the same as Sputnik V but contains a smaller dose. According to media reports and social media users, only small amounts of vaccine for teenagers have been made available.
Only about half of Russia’s 146-million population has been vaccinated so far, even though the country was among the first in the world to roll out COVID-19 shots.