Russia’s coronavirus death toll passed 4,000 on Thursday as medics in the second city Saint Petersburg said hospitals were operating at the peak of their capacity.
Health officials reported that 4,142 people had died in Russia from the virus, with 174 new deaths over the last 24 hours.
The number of new deaths equaled Russia’s highest daily toll recorded yet on Tuesday.
Officials said last week Russia would see a sharp rise in the mortality figures for May as they anticipate deaths of patients who were admitted to hospitals during the peak of the epidemic several weeks ago.
Although the number of new cases has steadily declined, medical workers in Saint Petersburg said hospitals remain at peak capacity.
Sergei Sayapin, a doctor at the Pokrovskaya municipal hospital, told local media that 650 patients were being treated at his hospital last week, which has just over 540 beds.
“People lie on examination benches, without mattresses or pillows,” Sayapin was quoted as saying on Wednesday. He declined to speak to AFP.
Saint Petersburg governor Alexander Beglov said last week he saw no evidence of the epidemic declining.
Just 11 percent of the city’s 11,000 beds are currently vacant, according to official statistics.
Natalia, a medic in the ambulance service, said “the flow of infected patients does not stop”.
“Ambulances can spend up to seven hours driving around town to find a place for a coronavirus patient,” she told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“The hospitals are bursting at the seams. I don’t really believe in official figures that don’t correspond to the images we see every day.”
President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday hailed a trend towards stabilisation in the country’s virus situation and Thursday’s number of new cases was below 9,000 for the fifth day running at 8,371.
Putin earlier this week announced the annual May 9 Victory Day parade would be held in June after postponing the event last month to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The Kremlin said it was coordinating with countries including France to invite their leaders to attend the military showcase.
In Moscow, the worst affected city, there were 2,054 new cases, the lowest number since late April.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has announced new steps towards lifting lockdown from June 1 including reopening non-food shops and allowing people to go on walks with masks on.
Russia has the world’s third largest number of confirmed cases at 379,051, behind the United States and Brazil.