Medics escort a woman into a hospital where patients infected with Covid-19 are being treated in the settlement of Kommunarka outside Moscow on June 30, 2021. Photo: AFP / Dimitar Dilkoff

Russia on Thursday reported 672 coronavirus deaths over the past 24 hours, according to a government tally, setting a pandemic high of fatalities for the third day in a row. 

The country is battling a surging outbreak driven by the highly infectious Delta variant and worsened by a lagging jab drive, with President Vladimir Putin urging Russians on national television Wednesday to get vaccinated.

The daily death toll released Thursday topped Wednesday’s record of 669 and Tuesday’s of 652. 

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has said that the Delta variant, which was first identified in India, accounts for 90% of cases in the Russian capital. 

He has introduced a host of new restrictions to counter the surge, including ordering businesses to send home 30% of unvaccinated employees and allowing restaurants to only serve inside patrons who have been inoculated or infected in the past six months.

Sobyanin also earlier this month ordered 60% of the city’s service industry workers to be fully inoculated by mid-August, with more than a dozen Russian regions since following his lead. 

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. 

Authorities have faced a population highly skeptical of coronavirus vaccines, in particular Russia’s homegrown jabs, with independent polling showing that 60% do not plan on getting inoculated.

As of Thursday, only 17.4 million of Russia’s population of about 146 million people – or about 12% – had been fully vaccinated, according to the Gogov website, which tallies Covid data from the regions. 

Russia, with 135,886 deaths from the virus, has the highest official toll from Covid-19 in Europe.