Russia has reported another daily record for COVID-19 deaths as the country struggles with a jump in cases triggered by the highly contagious delta variant first identified in India and a sluggish vaccination rollout.
According to the official government tally on June 29, 652 coronavirus deaths were recorded in Russia over the past 24 hours, topping the record set in December 2020, while nationwide infections grew by 20,616, bringing Russia's caseload to nearly 5.5 million.
In another dose of bad news, the Kremlin announced on June 29 that the vaccination target set by authorities for the fall will not be met.
Over the past several weeks, Moscow and the second-largest city, St. Petersburg have seen a spike in infections, prompting city authorities to reintroduce virus restrictions.
St. Petersburg, which is due to host a Euro 2020 quarterfinal on July 2, also reported a new high -- 119 fatalities for the previous day, while Moscow registered 121 deaths for the same period -- a day after setting a record for the capital with 124 deaths.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has said that the delta variant accounts for 90 percent of cases in the capital, where reported infections on June 29 reached 6,209.
To curb the spread of infections, Sobyanin ordered businesses to send home 30 percent of unvaccinated employees and restaurants to allow inside only patrons who have been inoculated or infected in the past half year.
Moscow also became the first Russian city to introduce mandatory vaccinations, requiring at least 60 percent of service industry workers to be fully inoculated by mid-August, with several other regions following suit.
Amid the rise in cases and widespread skepticism over homegrown vaccines, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia will fail to inoculate 60 percent of its population by the fall as previously planned given the low uptake of vaccines.
Just a little more than 22 million people out of a population of about 146 million had received at least one vaccine dose as of June 28, despite free vaccines having been available since December 2020 when Russia launched Sputnik V.
With more than 134,000 deaths, Russia has the highest coronavirus death toll in Europe.
A parallel tally kept by statistics agency Rossat, which uses a broader definition for deaths linked to coronavirus, has put the toll at least at 270,000 fatalities since the pandemic began.
However, critics say that Russia vastly underreports fatalities, and the real toll could be considerably higher.