Moscow to shut non-essential services over virus
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Moscow (AFP) – Moscow will shut non-essential services between October 28 and November 7, its mayor said Thursday, as coronavirus deaths soar in Russia, the country in Europe hardest hit by the pandemic, amid dramatically low vaccination rates.
Mayor Sergei Sobyanin announced the 11-day closure a day after President Vladimir Putin ordered a nationwide paid week off at the end of the month to curb fast spreading infections.
Russia reported a record 1,036 Covid-19 deaths in a single day Thursday, but officials have warned the worst is yet to come, with only 35 percent of Russians fully vaccinated.
Sobyanin said all non-essential retail, sporting and entertainment venues must close for the period. Shops selling food, medicine and other essentials will remain open.
Restaurants and cafes will be able to sell take-away food, the mayor said in a statement.
Mass events will be banned and schools will be closed, with the days off coinciding with national school holidays.
Theatres and museums can stay open, but entry will be allowed only with QR codes.
The mayor said the measures were necessary because the "situation in Moscow is continuing to develop according to the worst-case scenario."
When restrictions end on November 8, Moscow will also halt free public transport passes for unvaccinated passengers over 60 or with chronic disease.
"Please take this decision with understanding. It was adopted with the aim of protecting the lives and health of the most vulnerable Muscovites," Sobyanin said.
He had previously told unvaccinated over-60s in the Russian capital to work from home and extended mandatory vaccinations for service workers.
Officials this week said the virus is spreading faster than ever, with Russia registering 36,339 new cases on Thursday.
Putin on Wednesday linked Russia's high death rates to what he called an "unfortunately" low vaccination rate.
"Please, show responsibility," Putin urged Russians.
Despite multiple pleas from Putin and the homegrown Sputnik V vaccine being widely available since December, many Russians are reluctant to vaccinate themselves.
Putin's own spokesman Dmitry Peksov said Wednesday that he had not been inoculated, even if he repeatedly urged Russians to do so.
Although it is being used in dozens of countries, Sputnik V is not approved by the EU or by the World Health Organization.
An aide to Russia's health minister, Alexei Kuznetsov, told local media on Thursday that the date for an inspection by the EU's drug regulator, the European Medicines Agency, is "still being discussed."
"We are preparing a visit (by the EMA) this year," he was quoted as saying by state news agency TASS.
Western vaccines are not available in Russia and the Kremlin this week insisted that bringing them into the country would not help the sluggish vaccination rates.
The fatalities on Thursday brought the country's official death toll from the disease to 227,389.
But figures published by statistics agency Rosstat in October paint a far darker picture, suggesting that more than 400,000 people have died in the country from the coronavirus.
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