Moscow orders residents to stay home as coronavirus spreads

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Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin ordered residents to stay in their homes, warning that the spread of novel coronavirus in Europe’s largest capital city “has entered a new phase.”

The Russian capital’s 12.7 million people were ordered to stay home starting Monday, with limited exceptions, in the strictest measures yet imposed in a major Russian city. Confirmed infections in Moscow jumped overnight to 1,014 on Sunday and make up two-thirds of the country’s total.

Sobyanin said in a website statement late Sunday that a system of passes will be introduced in the coming days, including remote monitoring. Residents who are out will need to keep a distance of at least 1.5 meters from others.

The lock-down comes after Sobyanin ordered nonessential businesses to close to slow the spread of the illness. He has been among Russia’s most vocal proponents of tough restrictions to counter coronavirus in a crisis that has undermined the Kremlin’s ability to get its message out clearly.

“Movement in the city is down by two-thirds and that’s very good,” Sobyanin said in the statement. “But it’s obvious that far from everyone has heard our message.”

He said the new rules “don’t limit the right of citizens to come into the city or to leave,” but are aimed at restricting “moving around the city without any reason.” They include exceptions for going to work, walking pets and shopping for necessities near home.

Non-working week

President Vladimir Putin announced this week will be a non-working one, but didn’t commit to any drastic measures during a national address Mar. 25, instead promising benefits to get companies and individuals through the crisis. In a stark example of the mixed signals coming from the Kremlin, spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday the week-long paid national holiday that Putin had publicly announced was really an order to work from home.

Putin’s top public health official, Anna Popova, as recently as last Monday ruled out locking down the capital, while Sobyanin pushed a harder line the following day, warning the president that the number of reported cases of the coronavirus understated the problem.

Russia has been adopting increasingly strict measures all week. The government halted all international flights as of Friday and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin called on regions to close most businesses, while stopping short of ordering them to do so. The government also is closing Russia’s borders effective Monday.

Russia is also mobilizing the army help battle the epidemic, and the Defense Ministry announced plans to build 16 hospitals to treat coronavirus patients around the country by mid-May.


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