Tough new Covid-19 restrictions went into effect in Moscow on Thursday, with the Russian capital entering an 11-day paid holiday that authorities hope will help rein in skyrocketing coronavirus cases and deaths across the country.
The rest of the country is due to join Moscow in taking so-called ‘non-working’ days from Saturday until November 7. The restrictions came into effect as Russia reported 40,096 cases and 1,159 deaths on Thursday, the highest daily figures yet.
Restaurants, cafes, entertainment venues, clothing stores, fitness clubs, libraries and many other establishments in Moscow closed their doors on Thursday. Cafes and restaurants will only be available for takeaway and delivery, with the exception of eateries at hotels, where only guests and employees can dine.
Government entities and state services will also go on a “long paid leave” for as long as the non-working days last, though they will still be delivering services online.
Medical assistance in Moscow will be provided as usual, but with a number of restrictions. In particular, dentists will be able to provide only emergency and urgent care. Schools and kindergartens will go on vacation too, while universities will have to operate remotely.
Mass cultural, entertainment and sports events will not be held unless an exception is granted by city authorities.
Muscovites can however still access shops selling food and essential goods, pharmacies, parks, and theaters and museums with proof of vaccination or recent recovery from Covid-19.
Despite the restrictions, the streets of the capital seemed as lively as usual on Thursday. Transport in Moscow will continue to operate as normal.
On October 20, Russian President Vladimir Putin approved a proposal to declare non-working days from October 30 to November 7 across the whole country and strongly encouraged each region to introduce the measures earlier if necessary.
On Tuesday, Moscow’s deputy mayor Anastasia Rakova urged people to use the non-working days to get vaccinated. Russia’s efforts to reduce transmission have been seriously hampered by a lackluster vaccination program. Just around 30% of the population is fully vaccinated, in a country where four domestic vaccines are available.
“We urge Muscovites to make the most of this time – to spend their days with their families, go to the country house or get vaccinated at one of the city centers. Vaccination and rapid testing centers for Covid-19 will continue to operate in Moscow. You can get vaccinated without an appointment in popular public places or by appointment at the clinic,” said Rakova.
Other restrictions have been in effect in Moscow since Monday. All residents over 60 who have not been vaccinated and have not been ill within the last six months, as well as people with certain chronic diseases, have been ordered to stay home until late February. Employers in the capital were also ordered to tell at least 30% of their employees to work from home from Monday.