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Russia’s death toll from COVID-19 in May grew to 18,695, up 65% from initial official reports, even before a new wave of infections pushed fatalities to a record high this week.

May’s total was down 9% from the revised April figure of 20,650. Russia publishes daily death figures and then updates the monthly total when the Federal Statistics Service releases its own data weeks later. The numbers were released Friday after working hours and include people who were infected with the virus where it was not regarded as the cause of death.

Total fatalities in Russia linked to the epidemic rose to nearly 290,000 through May.

Russia’s health crisis has worsened since May, and a surge of infections fueled by the highly contagious delta variant has forced many regions to impose mandatory vaccination requirements and adopt other measures to pressure people to get the shots.

“The situation remains very difficult,” with infection rates rising in most of Russia’s regions, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin told a televised meeting of officials Friday.

The number of daily coronavirus infections doubled over the course of June and deaths rose. Russia reported a six-month high of 25,766 new cases on Friday, and daily deaths attributed to COVID-19 hit a record Tuesday.

A heath worker draws the 'Gam-COVID-Vac', also known as 'Sputnik V', COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Moscow on Sept. 23, 2020.
A heath worker draws the 'Gam-COVID-Vac', also known as 'Sputnik V', COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Moscow on Sept. 23, 2020. (Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg)

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