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Russia announced a daily record number of coronavirus infections on Wednesday. 19,768 new cases put pressure on the government just days after President Vladimir Putin said there were no plans for a lockdown.

The death toll also rose by 389, meaning 29,217 people have been killed by COVID-19 since it reached Russia earlier this year.

Russia has listed a total of 1,693,454 cases of infection.

As in many European countries, hospitals in the regions of Russia are affected by a sharp increase in virus patients. Images circulating on social media show people lying on stairs in medical facilities and long queues for ambulances unable to deliver patients for treatment.

Russia imposed one of the most restrictive lockdowns during the height of the first wave of the pandemic from March to May, but last Thursday Putin said “we have no plans to put in place any comprehensive restrictive measures” or a nationwide lockdown.

Putin advocated a regionalized approach with targeted measures in the hardest hit cities and regions.

Other countries, including France and England, tried to implement this strategy before abandoning it in favor of national lockdowns due to the exponential growth in virus cases.

Russian consumer safety agency Rospotrebnadzor has stepped up protective measures such as the compulsory wearing of masks in high-traffic areas such as public transport and elevators.

It has also recommended banning public events at night and closing restaurants and bars, but very few regions have followed the advice.

The government has announced an aid package worth 11 billion rubles ($ 138.6 million) for the regions of the country that have overtaken Moscow in new cases.

Russia has reported a much lower virus mortality rate compared to other hard-hit countries, and Kremlin critics have accused the government of trying to downplay the severity of the pandemic.

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© 2020 AFP

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