Moscow's mayor warns the Covid situation in the city is 'dramatic' with more than 12,000 hospitalised.
Russia has admitted that several new Covid-19 strains are circulating in the city, which are up to 58 per cent more resistant to the country's main vaccine Sputnik V.
The new variants are mutations of the Delta or 'Indian' strain, said the architect of the Sputnik V vaccine Alexander Gintsburg, director of the Gamaleya Institute.
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Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has announced mandatory vaccination for service sector workers, saying the measure is necessary as the city's hospitals grapple with 12K hospitalized Covid-19 patients
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Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin on Wednesday ordered mandatory vaccinations for residents of the Russian capital working in the service industry, citing a 'dramatic' rise in coronavirus infections.
In a blog post, he wrote: 'We simply must do everything to carry out mass vaccinations in the shortest possible time and stop this terrible disease, stop the deaths of thousands of people.'
Health officials in Moscow have in recent weeks reported a steady rise in the number of new Covid-19 cases, mirroring a trend across Russia.
Russia reported 13,397 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, including 5,782 cases and 75 deaths in Moscow. On Sunday, 7,704 cases were reported, making it the highest daily toll since December 24.
Giving more details on the new discoveries, Dr Gintsburg said: 'We are currently identifying a range of variants which are circulating in Moscow.
'And here there is far from just the Wuhan strain, there is also a mutated Indian strain. We are now studying Sputnik V's efficacy against these variants.'
The country has the sixth-highest caseload in the world, but President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly claimed Russia handled the pandemic better than most other countries.
The increase in cases comes as authorities struggle to encourage Russians to get vaccinated, even though the country launched a mass campaign of free jabs in December.
Sobyanin, whose city of some 12 million is the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in Russia, said just 1.8 million residents had been inoculated.
As authorities announced 5,782 new infections in the capital and 75 deaths, Sobyanin said: 'The coronavirus situation continues to unfold dramatically.'
He added: 'In connection with the extremely difficult epidemiological situation, the Chief State Sanitary Doctor for the city of Moscow today adopted a decree on the compulsory vaccination of workers in the service sector.'
Dr Gintsburg told the Interfax: 'When it comes to [Sputnik V's] efficacy in lab conditions, there is a decrease of 29-58% compared to the serum received from the Wuhan strains.'
Urgent tests are underway on the newly identified strains. He claimed this was 'not all critical'.
In recent days there have been long queues of ambulances waiting to drop off patients at hospitals, and reports there are shortages of beds.
Immunologist Vladimir Bolibok said: 'The most important reason for the increase in coronavirus infections, in all likelihood, is the emergence of our own, Moscow, strain. Our own mutation, which began to spread throughout Russia.
'Possibly the Moscow strain did not originate in Moscow either. It just got to Moscow from some other city and began to spread strongly.'
Data analyst Alexander Dragan warned: 'The pandemic is only speeding up... We are now facing a fully-fledged third wave of the pandemic across dozens of regions.'
Sobyanin said on Saturday the city was repurposing thousands of hospital beds for an influx of Covid patients and told residents to stay off work in the coming week to help curb the spread of the virus.
Sports pitches, playgrounds and other attractions inside large parks were closed for a week from Sunday. Bars and restaurants were ordered to close no later than 11pm.
Sobyanin last week announced that all Muscovites who get their first coronavirus jab would be automatically entered into a lottery to win a car.
Despite introducing a strict lockdown after the pandemic swept across Russia last spring, authorities lifted most restrictions by mid-summer in an effort to protect the struggling economy.
Russia started its mass vaccination campaign in December, with homegrown vaccine Sputnik V - touted by Putin as the best in the world.
The country has since approved three more vaccines for public use: EpiVacCorona, CoviVac and the one-dose Sputnik Light.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.