MOSCOW - Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Russia needed to speed up its vaccination campaign against COVID-19 as the country recorded its highest single-day death toll since the start of the pandemic.
Speaking to newly elected lawmakers, Putin urged them to actively support efforts to have more of the population vaccinated.
"Vaccination safeguards people from infection, from serious symptoms," Putin told lawmakers. "We need to increase its pace."
The Kremlin has blamed the rising case numbers on insufficient numbers of people getting inoculated. Russia was fast to develop and launch its Sputnik vaccine when the pandemic struck last year, but take-up has been slow, with many Russians citing distrust of the authorities and fear of new medical products.
Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said earlier on Tuesday that around a third of the population had been inoculated.
Russia reported 973 coronavirus-related deaths on Tuesday, its highest single-day toll since the start of the pandemic, as well as 28,190 new infections.
Government officials voiced concern at the pace and intensity of the new cases.
"The main feature of the current wave is an rapid increase in the number of cases, as well as a large number of patients whose infection shows rapid progression over two or three days and require resuscitation," Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said.
He told a televised government meeting that 1.1 million people were currently being treated for symptoms of COVID-19.
Anna Popova, head of Russia's consumer health watchdog, said regional authorities were stepping up efforts to enforce mask use in public spaces.
In the Moscow region, authorities ordered that at least 80% of workers at shopping centers, beauty salons, fitness clubs and other public locations be vaccinated.