MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia announced on Wednesday it had approved a second COVID-19 vaccine, as the country recorded a record daily increase in coronavirus cases and switched to online classes for secondary school in the capital.
The new vaccine, developed by Siberia’s Vector Institute, completed early-stage trials last month. Russia became the first country to officially approve a vaccine when it did so for the Sputnik V jab in August. So far, neither vaccine is in general circulation.
Unlike Western countries, Russia has given official approval to its COVID-19 vaccines without waiting for the results of large-scale trials in thousands of patients, which are normally required to prove that a drug is safe and effective. That decision has been criticised by scientists in other countries.
“We need to increase production of the first and second vaccine,” President Vladimir Putin said in comments broadcast on state TV. “We are continuing to cooperate with our foreign partners and will promote our vaccine abroad.”
Like many countries in Europe, Russia has seen a sharp resurgence in coronavirus infections as cold weather has returned. Yet the authorities have so far been reluctant to return to lockdown measures.
“In our opinion, the situation is manageable and does not require the introduction of restrictions on the economy,” Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova said at a government meeting headed by Putin.
Russia’s coronavirus taskforce said on Wednesday it had recorded 14,231 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, the most since the pandemic began. It recorded 239 deaths, bringing the death toll to 23,205. More than 4,500 of the new cases were in the capital Moscow, the hardest hit part of the country.
Schools in the capital have been shut for the past two weeks to limit the spread of the virus. Sergei Sobyanin, the city’s mayor, said primary school pupils would return to class, but older children would now have all lessons online.
“The decisions that we have made today are not easy but are simply necessary taking into account both the epidemiological situation and the need for schoolchildren to receive a quality education,” he wrote on his website.
Reporting by Anastasia Teterevleva, Gleb Stolyarov and Maria Kiselyova; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Robert Birsel and Jan Harvey
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