People queue for their vaccinations at a shopping mall in Moscow on July 2, 2021. The country is battling a surging outbreak driven by the highly infectious Delta variant and worsened by a lagging jab drive. Photo: AFP / Natalia Kolesnikova

Russia on Friday reported 679 coronavirus deaths, a record number of pandemic-related fatalities over a 24-four period for the fourth day in a row, a government tally showed.

Russia, the fifth worst-hit country in the world, is battling a surging outbreak driven by the highly infectious Delta variant and worsened by a lagging vaccination drive.

The surge in infections prompted President Vladimir Putin again this week to urge Russians to get inoculated in a televised phone-in session with the nation.

But in spite of the worsening caseload and repeated fatality records, officials have pressed ahead with large in-person events, including Euro 2020 football fixtures in Russia’s second city of Saint Petersburg.

Saint Petersburg on Friday recorded 101 deaths, just shy of its record from earlier in the week of 119. 

Organizers have said the Spain versus Switzerland quarter-final later Friday will go ahead despite the surge in infections, in front of thousands of spectators.

Moscow’s mayor Sergei Sobyanin has said the Delta variant, which was first identified in India, now accounts for 90% of new cases in the city.

Authorities in the capital have introduced a host of restrictions.

Sobyanin recently ordered offices to send home a third of their workforces, except employees who had been vaccinated, and said 60% of people working in the service industry must be fully inoculated by mid-August.

Moscow’s restaurants have been told to only allow indoors patrons who have been vaccinated or infected in the past six months.

The Kremlin had set a goal of fully inoculating 60% of Russia’s population by September, but conceded earlier this week that it would not be able to meet that target, even though free jabs have been available since early December.

And even as authorities struggle to get the vaccine-skeptical population to clinics, they are now pushing those previously jabbed to do so again.

Sobyanin this week urged Muscovites inoculated more than six months ago to get a booster jab with the country’s homegrown Sputnik V vaccine or the one-dose Sputnik Light.

Russia, with 136,565 deaths from the virus, has the highest official toll from Covid-19 in Europe – even as authorities have been accused of downplaying the severity of the country’s outbreak.

Under a broader definition for deaths linked to the coronavirus, statistics agency Rosstat at the end of April said that Russia has seen at least 270,000 fatalities.