President Vladimir Putin said Thursday there will be “no lockdown” in Russia to curb the spread of Covid, despite the country facing a steep surge in infections driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant.
“No lockdown is planned,” Putin said at a meeting with Russian businessmen aired on state television, adding that Russia will even ease some restrictions.
“In the near future, restrictions on contact persons can be lifted, so that people can work peacefully,” Putin said.
Under Russia’s current rules, anyone who has had contact with a Covid-positive person has to isolate for seven days.
Putin’s comments come as Russia on Thursday recorded 155,768 new coronavirus infections.
The number of cases across the country is rising sharply, with Omicron accounting for the majority of cases.
While social distancing has been lax in many places in Moscow, the longtime Russian leader himself has been careful with Covid.
When he hosted Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Moscow this week, the pair drank champagne standing on opposite ends of a large carpet in the Kremlin.
Following a strict but brief national lockdown at the beginning of the pandemic, Russia has held back on curbs, hoping instead to protect its struggling economy.
But with four vaccines widely available for months, Russians remain reluctant to get jabbed with just under half of the population fully vaccinated.
Russia’s government figures have reported 333,357 deaths from Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic — the highest death toll in Europe.
However, those figures are contradicted by statistics agency Rosstat, which counts Covid deaths under a broader definition and says the overall death toll is close to double the official number.
Last month, Rosstat said Russia’s population declined by more than a million people last year, a historic drop not seen since the collapse of the Soviet Union.