New surge in virus cases as Russia eases restrictions

Russia reported another surge in coronavirus infections on Tuesday, bringing the total to more than 230,000 cases as authorities began to gradually ease restrictions.

A government tally on Tuesday showed 10,899 infections over the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 232,243.

Russia is now among the top four countries with the most coronavirus cases and is on track to have the second-highest number of infections after the United States.

Despite reporting more than 10,000 new cases a day for over a week, President Vladimir Putin on Monday announced that a “non-working” period in place for six weeks would be lifted from Tuesday.

A lockdown in Moscow, the epicentre of the crisis in Russia, remains in place until the end of May, but even in the capital some restrictions were being lifted.

Some 500,000 employees of companies involved in industry and construction were allowed to resume work, though authorities made it mandatory to wear masks and gloves in shops and on public transport.

Russia’s reported mortality rate is much lower compared to other European countries hit hard by the pandemic, with 107 new deaths and 2,116 dead from the coronavirus as of Tuesday.

Authorities say this is because Russia moved quickly to close its borders and isolate those at risk, convert hospitals to treating virus patients and launch a vast campaign to test and quarantine those infected.

Critics have cast doubt on the numbers, accusing authorities of under-counting by blaming virus-related deaths on other causes.