Moscow closes all non-essential services for 11 days as Covid-19 deaths rise

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Russia on Thursday reported a record number of daily coronavirus cases and deaths as Moscow shut down non-essential services for 11 days to tackle soaring infections.

Europe’s hardest-hit country by the pandemic, Russia has struggled with low vaccination rates despite developing several of its own bites.

In recent weeks, the daily number of cases and deaths has reached the highest of the pandemic, with the government’s official tally reporting Thursday new records of 40,096 infections and 1,159 deaths.

Authorities avoided the kind of harsh lockdowns imposed in many countries, but closed all non-essential services in Moscow from Thursday until November 7.

Retail outlets, restaurants and sports and entertainment venues are all closed, along with schools and kindergartens. Only stores selling food, medicine and other basic necessities are allowed to remain open.

President Vladimir Putin’s government is pinning its hopes on homegrown vaccines like the Sputnik V vaccine, but the Russians have proven stubbornly resistant to inoculation.

As of Thursday, only 32% of Russia’s population had been fully vaccinated, according to the Gogov website, which tallies Covid-19 data from regions.

Putin last week ordered paid leave across the country between October 30 and November 7 in a bid to reverse rising infections, and authorities in Moscow followed suit by ordering the closure of non-essential services in the capital from Thursday.

No home order

Moscow’s roads on Thursday morning were slightly less congested than usual, but the city’s extensive metro system was still just as busy, with many passengers not wearing masks.

Authorities did not require Russians to stay at home during the non-working period and many planned to use those days to travel across the country and abroad.

The mayor of the Black Sea resort city of Sochi has warned of a massive influx of tourists and demand in Russia for flights to Turkey and Egypt has skyrocketed.

Russia has recorded nearly 8.4 million cases and more than 235,000 deaths, although independent experts say authorities have downplayed the severity of the pandemic.

Figures released by statistics agency Rosstat in October paint a grimmer picture, suggesting more than 400,000 people have died in the country from the coronavirus.

After months of severe lockdown at the start of the pandemic, Russian authorities have been reluctant to impose new restrictions that would harm the economy, instead begging Russians to get vaccinated.

(AFP)

Michelle J. Kelley