Moscow imposes new restrictions on Covid-19 as deaths peak

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Moscow’s mayor on Tuesday ordered the city’s first coronavirus restrictions since the summer, as Russia recorded 1,015 daily deaths from COVID, a new record.

Nationwide, the government is considering taking people off work for a week to reduce social contact in a bid to reduce the tide of infections.

President Vladimir Putin is expected to decide on Wednesday what government measures will be imposed on him to curb the spread of the virus across the country.

But as early as Tuesday, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin ordered unvaccinated over-60s in the capital to work from home and extended mandatory vaccinations for service workers. Those restrictions will take effect next Monday and are expected to last until the end of February.

Sobyanin also told employers to move 30 percent of their staff to work from home.

“Every day the number of people hospitalized with the severe form of the disease is increasing,” Sobyanin said in a statement.

The number of patients in serious condition has “doubled” since late summer, he added.

The measures were announced after Russia posted a new 24-hour high of 1,015 coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, bringing the country’s official total to 225,325, the highest in Europe.

But figures released by the Rosstat statistics agency in October suggested that more than 400,000 people had died in the country from the coronavirus.

‘Difficult solutions’

Only 35 percent of Russians are vaccinated and authorities are fighting to counter anti-vaccine sentiment. Independent polls show that more than half of Russians do not plan to have a chance, despite Putin’s calls.

Sobyanin said authorities expected older Muscovites to be vaccinated after returning from the camp at the end of the summer.

“Unfortunately, this did not happen,” his statement said.

The increase in cases has occurred without any strict restrictions to limit the spread of Covid-19, although several regions have reintroduced QR codes to access public places.

Russian officials have been accused of downplaying the severity of the pandemic.

Earlier Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova called for the introduction of a non-working week from October 30 to curb the spread of the virus.

He proposed that the most affected regions introduce such a measure starting this Saturday.

“The solutions we propose are very difficult,” Golikova told Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.

“But we ask you to support these proposals and appeal to the head of state.”

Golikova is due to present her proposal to Putin for approval during a meeting on Wednesday.

‘No trust’ in vaccines

Russia has struggled to inoculate its citizens even though domestic vaccines, including Sputnik, are widely available.

Putin insists that Russia has handled the pandemic better than most countries, but even top officials have recently expressed concern.

Pyotr Tolstoy, a vice-speaker of the lower house, said at the weekend that authorities had “completely missed” an information campaign on the coronavirus.

“There is no confidence that people are going to get vaccinated, it is a fact,” he said.

Putin’s spokesman on Tuesday urged Russians to be “more responsible” and admitted that the government could have done more to explain the “lack of alternatives to vaccines.”

“There is a tradition of blaming everything on the state,” Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

“But at the same time, we need a more responsible position from the citizens of our country.”

Western vaccines are not available in Russia, and Peskov insisted that bringing them into the country would not help the low vaccination rates.

“The vacinophobia of some citizens is not linked to the vaccine brand,” he said.

On Monday, the second city of Saint Petersburg announced that it would tighten restrictions to combat the virus, introducing a health pass to regulate access to mass events from November 1.

(AFP)