Russia is again in the grips of a virus surge, despite months of assurances from President Vladimir V. Putin’s government that the worst of the pandemic had passed. The spiraling outbreak has come as a surprise, even in the words of the senior officials behind those assurances.
Russian virologists say that the Delta variant, first found in India, is now the most prevalent version in Moscow. Quickly rising case numbers put Russia at risk of following in the path of other countries such as India that seemed to have squelched infections only to see a resurgence.
The outbreak is most pronounced in Moscow, the capital, where case numbers have tripled over the past two weeks, according to city officials, who have added 5,000 beds to coronavirus wards. Moscow health authorities reported 9,056 positive tests on Friday, the highest daily figure for the city since the pandemic began.
Russia has reported 125,853 deaths from Covid-19 since the pandemic started, but statistics showing excess mortality over the past year suggest the real number is far higher.
Across Russia, only 9.9 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, though Russia last summer claimed to be the first country in the world to have approved a vaccine. For comparison, 44 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated.
Cases crept up slowly throughout the spring, then spiked this month. And over the winter, little was done to encourage Russians to get vaccinated.
In fact, to avoid stimulating demand late last year when vaccines were scarce, Mr. Putin delayed his own inoculation until March, though age-wise he qualified months earlier, the Kremlin press office said. He did not receive it on camera.
Today, skepticism persists even though vaccines are widely available. The Levada Center, a polling agency, surveyed Russian attitudes about vaccination in April and found that 62 percent did not intend to get a Russian-made vaccine, all that is available in Russia.