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World News

Kremlin says rise in COVID-19 cases 'alarming', but too soon to judge policy

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Kremlin said on Friday it was alarmed by a rise in COVID-19 cases, but it was too early to judge the effectiveness of its policy of trying to contain the disease without a full lockdown.

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Russia reported a record daily tally of 20,582 new cases, taking its total to 1,733,440 - the world’s fourth largest behind the United States, India and Brazil.

“The trend is alarming, the pandemic is developing,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call.

“The situation is being carefully monitored and analysed, and measures taken collectively... taking into account the specifics of a given region,” he added.

Asked whether Russia’s measures had been effective in containing the virus without imposing lockdowns, Peskov said: “It is probably too early to talk about this.”

In recent months Russian authorities have said harsh restrictions are not needed and have stressed the importance of hygiene and safety precautions.

Russia has also developed its own vaccines - though they have not been universally recognised as effective. Moscow and regions will receive thousands of shots in the coming days, Moscow’s Gamaleya Research Institute said on Friday, according to Interfax news agency.

Up to 1,400 people are being hospitalised in Moscow with the coronavirus every day, the city’s deputy mayor, Anastasia Rakova, said. Around 70% of the more than 15,000 hospital beds allocated to COVID-19 patients in Moscow were currently occupied, she added.

“Unfortunately we cannot say the situation is stable at the moment,” TASS news agency quoted her as saying.

The Russian capital, home to nearly 13 million people, recorded 6,253 new infections on Friday.

Across the country, authorities reported 378 coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours, pushing the official death toll to 29,887.

Russia has relaxed many of the restrictions it imposed in the first burst of the pandemic. Authorities have told people to wear masks and sometimes gloves in shops and other public places, but these rules are not often strictly obeyed.

Reporting by Dmitry Antonov, Gleb Stolyarov, Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber, Anton Kolodyazhnyy and Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Andrew Heavens

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