MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s record high coronavirus death toll persisted for a second straight day on Saturday, as the number of new infections declined.

The state coronavirus task force reported 1,254 COVID-19 deaths, matching Friday’s tally.

The task force also reported 37,120 new confirmed cases. The daily new infections in recent weeks appear to have a downward trend but still remain higher than during previous surges of the virus.

The latest surge in deaths comes amid low vaccination rates and lax public attitudes in Russia toward taking precautions. About 40% of Russia’s nearly 146 million people have been fully vaccinated, even though the country approved a domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine — Sputnik V — months before most of the world.

In total, Russia’s coronavirus task force has reported nearly 9.3 million confirmed infections and 262,843 COVID-19 deaths, by far the highest death toll in Europe.

Some experts believe the true figure is even higher. Reports by Russia’s statistical service, Rosstat, that tally coronavirus-linked deaths retroactively reveal much higher mortality. They say 462,000 people with COVID-19 died between April 2020 and September of this year.

Russian officials have said the task force only includes deaths for which COVID-19 was the main cause, and uses data from medical facilities. Rosstat uses wider criteria for counting virus-related deaths and takes its numbers from civil registry offices where registering a death is finalized.

___

Follow all AP stories on the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic