Russia braces for ‘very intense’ rise in Omicron cases

Russia warned on Tuesday it could face a “very intense” rise in cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant in the coming weeks and authorities preparing for a new wave of infections said they would make more hospital beds available in Moscow.

Speaking at a televised meeting of the government’s coronavirus task force, Anna Popova, a top consumer health official, said Russia had so far recorded 305 cases of Omicron across 13 of its regions.

“The risk of a very intense rise in (cases) of the disease is real,” she said.

Omicron has pushed COVID-19 case figures to record highs in parts of western Europe and the United States, while cases in Russia have generally been declining from a peak of 41,335 registered in early November.

Officials said they now feared the trend could rapidly reverse and Popova warned that daily infections could hit “six figures” if proper sanitary measures were not observed.

Moscow’s Mayor Sergei Sobyanin told Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin at the televised meeting that the capital, which has a population of 12.7 million, was already seeing a significant increase in Omicron cases.

He said special measures would be taken to tackle the rise in cases, without elaborating.

“It’s necessary to mobilise more hospital beds, to mobilise the health system,” Sobyanin said.

The Kremlin has frequently expressed frustration at the slow uptake of the domestically-made Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19, with many citing distrust of the authorities and fear of new medical products.

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