Moscow Mayor Restores Covid-19 Restrictions as Infections Surge

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin ordered the return of sweeping restrictions in an attempt to curb a spike in Covid-19 infections as he warned that authorities are making thousands of hospital beds available to cope with the rise in cases.

Sobyanin declared June 15-19 as non-working days in the Russian capital following a public holiday on Monday, and urged the elderly and those with chronic illnesses to stay at home. He also ordered bars and restaurants to cease service from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., shut down food courts at shopping malls and closed children’s playgrounds in the city’s parks and open spaces.

“Over the past week, the situation with the spread of coronavirus infections has become dramatically more complicated,” Sobyanin said in a statement on his website Saturday. “The number of newly diagnosed cases of Covid has jumped to the peak levels of last year.”

Sobyanin’s decision restores restrictions that he lifted in January as the last wave of Covid-19 infections in Moscow appeared to have passed its peak. It comes only days after he announced that a new lockdown was unnecessary even with a rapid rise in new cases. Daily infections in Russia topped 10,000 this week for the first time in three months, while in Moscow the number has doubled since Monday, reaching 6,701 on Saturday, the highest since Dec. 26.

Doctors report “many seriously ill patients” including young people, and city authorities have re-converted thousands of beds in the city’s hospitals to deal with the increase, Sobyanin said.

The tighter restrictions in Moscow are a blow to President Vladimir Putin, who sought to present a return to normalcy in Russia by hosting 5,000 participants at his flagship economic forum in St. Petersburg last weekend, which organizers boasted was the largest such event since the global pandemic erupted last year.

The mayor’s order to try to slow the spread of infection extends to June 20 and it’s unclear whether the restrictions will remain in force beyond that date. It follows a similar nationwide declaration by Putin who turned the first 10 days of May into a non-working period.

The break “will help to cope with the rise in infections only if each of us exercises maximum caution,” Sobyanin said. “And, of course, we need to be more active in vaccination.”

Despite widespread availibiity, most Russians have been reluctant to take one of the three domestically-produced shots amid widespread suspicion of their safety and efficacy. Putin, who got inoculated in March and urged Russians to follow his example, told a Kremlin gathering to mark the Russia Day holiday on Saturday that 18 million people had gotten a shot so far.

Russia needs 69 million people with antibodies either from vaccines or through recovery from illness to achieve herd immunity, according to Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, who’s in charge of the response to the pandemic. Putin has called for that threshold to be reached by the fall.

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