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Russia wary of Delta Plus variant which might be more contagious

It is believed to be more contagious than Delta, may push rate of new cases up

MOSCOW: Russia has reported some Covid-19 infections with a coronavirus variant believed to be even more contagious than the Delta one, the RIA news agency said yesterday.

It is possible that the AY.4.2 variant will spread widely, RIA quoted the state consumer watchdog's senior researcher Kamil Khafizov as saying.

That could cause the rate of new cases, already at record highs in Russia, to rise even further.

The new variant could even replace Delta eventually, although the process is likely to be slow, he said.

The sub-variant known as Delta Plus, designated as AY.4.2 in Britain, is growing and accounted for about 6 per cent of all sequences generated in Britain, the UK Health Security Agency said last week, but it has not been labelled as "under investigation" or a "variant of concern".

Meanwhile, Moscow will reintroduce lockdown measures from Oct 28, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said yesterday, with only supermarkets and pharmacies allowed to stay open in an effort to cut soaring infection numbers and deaths.

The decision follows a statement from President Vladimir Putin a day earlier who approved a nationwide week-long workplace shutdown from Oct 30 to Nov 7 and said regional leaders could introduce other measures at their discretion.

Mr Putin will not meet people in person during the week-long shutdown, his spokesman said.

Mr Putin, whom the Kremlin says is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, will work by video conference, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was cited by state news agency RIA Novosti as saying.

LACKLUSTRE VACCINATION

Russia yesterday reported 1,036 virus deaths in the last 24 hours as well as 36,339 new infections, both record daily highs since the pandemic began.

The Kremlin has blamed the spike on a lacklustre vaccination campaign and apathy among the population and has urged Russians to get vaccinated.

Mr Sobyanin has already announced four months of stay-at-home restrictions for unvaccinated over-60s.

Bars and restaurants will be forced to close but can continue to operate takeaway and delivery services, Mr Sobyanin wrote on his personal website.

Schools and kindergartens must also suspend classes.

Theatres and museums were excluded and will be permitted to stay open provided they limit the number of visitors, who will be required to wear masks and present QR codes on their mobile phones to prove they have been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19.

Similar restrictions will apply in the wider Moscow region, Governor Andrei Vorobyov said. - REUTERS, AFP

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