Russia

Moscow forced to close Euro 2020 fan zone after dramatic rise in Covid cases

A supporter of Russia's team watches the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Russia and Belgium at a fan area in the Luzhniki Olympic Complex in Moscow on 12 June, 2021.
A supporter of Russia's team watches the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Russia and Belgium at a fan area in the Luzhniki Olympic Complex in Moscow on 12 June, 2021. AP - Pavel Golovkin

Moscow has closed its Euro 2020 fan zone and banned gatherings of more than 1,000 following a spike in Covid-19 cases, the mayor of the Russian capital announced on Friday.

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"I didn't want to do this, but we have to," Sergei Sobyanin wrote on his website a day after saying that cases in Moscow had nearly tripled in just days.

"Starting today, we will limit mass events to a maximum of 1,000 people."

"We are temporarily stopping all mass entertainment events and we'll also have to close dance halls and fan zones," he wrote, referring to the Euro 2020 fan zone outside of the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow.

On Thursday Sobyanin said that cases in Moscow, the metropolis of 12 million that's been the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic in Russia, soared from 3,000 to 7,000 within a few days and were expected to hit more than 9,000 on Friday.

"It's tripling, there's an enormous dynamic that we have not seen during the previous waves," Sobyanin said during a video conference, adding that new variants were likely to blame.

On Wednesday, Sobyanin had ordered mandatory vaccinations of all service industry workers in Moscow and last weekend announced a "non-working" week in the capital.

Russia's second city of Saint Petersburg, the country's worst Covid hotspot after Moscow, is hosting seven Euro 2020 matches - including a quarter-final – and is expected to see thousands of football fans from Europe.

Low vaccination rate 

On Monday, Saint Petersburg also announced a tightening of restrictions, including no food sales in its fan zones.

Also on Friday, Sobyanin extended until June 29 several measures that were announced last weekend, like the closure of food halls in malls, zoos, playgrounds, and the closure of bars and restaurants between 11:00 pm and 6:00 am.

The increase in cases in Russia comes as the country struggles to encourage Russians to get vaccinated, even though the country launched a mass campaign of free jabs in December and has developed and approved four vaccines – Sputnik V, EpiVacCorona, CoviVac and the one-dose Sputnik Light.

Since December, only 19 million out of a national population of 146 million have received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to the Gogov website which tallies Covid figures from the regions and the media in the absence of a national statistics office.

In Moscow, just 1.8 million out of a population of 12 million have been inoculated.

Russia overtook Britain on Thursday as the European country to record the most Covid deaths with 127,992.

However the Rosstat statistics agency, which uses a broader clinical definition of fatalities linked to Covid-19, says the figures are much higher and at least 270,000 Russians have died from coronavirus.

 (with AFP)

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