Moscow: Calling for a "mobilisation" of the country's health system against a new surge in Covid-19 infections, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the latest wave of infections was driven by the highly contagious and transmissible Omicron variant of the virus.
"It's obvious that we are in a very difficult situation today, in a situation on the verge of possible new surges (of the virus)," Putin said during a meeting with top government officials as quoted by the Associated Press.
"We see what's happening in the world. It means we have at least a couple of weeks to prepare," he added. Russia has seen a steep rise in infections detected daily just as the country was recovering from the last wave of the pandemic with infections having declined to 15,000-18,000 daily cases in recent months, down from the 30,000 seen at the peak of surge last year.
In November, Putin declared that he had taken the nasal-administered booster dose of the Sputnik vaccine which Russia has been exporting across the globe.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Russia's state coronavirus task force reported more than 17,000 new infections, up from about 15,000 on Monday. Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova told the government meeting with Putin that the number of confirmed Omicron cases in Russia stood at 698 on Wednesday, more than double the 305 reported the day before.
The country's state coronavirus task force has registered over 10.6 million confirmed infections and 317,618 deaths overall. Golikova warned the public during a press conference that new precautions would be out into place by the government although she did not elaborate on what those were.
Russian lawmakers late last year introduced legislation restricting access to public places to those who have been vaccinated, recovered or medically exempt from getting a jab, but the law hasn't yet passed all three readings in parliament. Similar restrictions already exist in some Russian regions, but are often loosely implemented. In others, they were relaxed ahead of the New Year's holidays.