Russia on Friday reported a steep drop in virus-related deaths in January on the previous month, as the epicentre of the country’s outbreak Moscow lifted one of its last remaining pandemic measures.
The figures published by the Rosstat statistics agency showed 21,511 Russians died due to coronavirus in January, while a further 7,169 people died with the virus but primarily of other causes.
That total of 28,680 represented a 65 percent decline on December — Russia’s deadliest month of the pandemic.
Russia was hit by a second wave of infections starting in early autumn that has receded in recent weeks.
Health officials Friday reported 88,285 total deaths from the coronavirus, a figure contradicted by Rosstat which counted nearly 162,000 virus-related deaths last year.
Authorities have been criticised for downplaying the pandemic’s severity by counting only fatalities where the coronavirus was found to be the primary cause of death after an autopsy.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin ended mandatory stay-at-home orders for over-65s and people with chronic illnesses Friday, lifting one of the Russian capital’s last remaining virus restrictions.
Life in Moscow, the centre of Russia’s outbreak, has all but returned to normal, with officials in January ending restrictions on in-office workers and allowing bars and restaurants to work through the night.
Sobyanin announced on his official blog that Muscovites over 65 and those with chronic illnesses would no longer be required to stay at home starting next week, calling the move “another step towards normal life”.
Citing new infections being down nearly fivefold since the end of last year, he wrote he had lifted the measure imposed in September because the “situation with the pandemic is gradually improving”.
But Sobyanin added that age and chronic illnesses meant the group was still “at risk”.
“Seven hundred to 800 people are still admitted to hospitals with severe Covid every day. Therefore, please refrain from travel if possible,” he said.
“And if you do go somewhere, then go first of all to a vaccination point to get vaccinated to protect yourself,” Sobyanin said.
Moscow, which recorded 1,757 new cases Friday, has kept a ban on mass events and mask-wearing in public remains mandatory.
While Russia’s second wave has receded, the country is still recording more than 10,000 new infections and has struggled to convince its citizens to get inoculated.
Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova said Friday that Russia has fully vaccinated two and a half million people with its homemade jabs, while another five million have received the first of their two doses.
Those figures indicate that only about 1.7 percent of Russia’s population has been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, three months after the jab became available to the public.
Surveys also suggest vaccine scepticism is on the rise.
Just 30 percent of respondents to a recent poll by the independent Levada Centre said they would get Russia’s homemade Sputnik V vaccine, compared with 38 percent in December.