Authorities in Moscow on Friday revoked their order that restaurants only admit customers who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, have recovered from the virus, or had a recent negative test.
The easing of restrictions in the Russian capital reflects their devastating impact on restaurateurs, who have begged city officials for weeks to cancel them. The move comes even as Moscow continues to experience an increase in infections and Russia overall on Friday posted a new daily record for coronavirus deaths.
The decision announced by Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin takes effect on Monday. It withdraws the measure in place since the end of June. Customers were required to visit a Russian government website and obtain a QR code – a digital model designed to be read by a scanner – as proof of their medical condition.
The restrictions were heavily criticized by restaurateurs, who were still struggling to recover from the damage caused by the pandemic. Some desperate owners began to close their restaurants and cafes as the number of customers declined sharply. Outdoor terraces were allowed to operate without restrictions, but many restaurants and cafes did not have a place to install them on Moscow’s narrow sidewalks.
Sobyanin said the city reversed its decision as the pace of the contagion slowed. From Monday, restaurants and clubs in Moscow will be able to open at night and organize parties and concerts.
He noted, however, that “we must understand that we are still in the risk zone, the contagion continues and we must comply with health requirements and carry out mass vaccination”.
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Some Russian media have speculated that the decision to abruptly lift restrictions in Moscow reflected authorities’ concerns that the harsh measures could fuel discontent and further erode support for the main Kremlin party, United Russia, in parliamentary elections. September.
Sobyanin’s statement came as Russia recorded a fourth consecutive day of record daily deaths from COVID-19, with authorities reporting 799 deaths, including 105 in Moscow. New daily infections in Russia have risen from around 9,000 in early June to more than 25,000 now, and the number of daily deaths has exceeded 700 since last week.
Authorities reported 25,704 new cases of the coronavirus on Friday, including 5,382 in Moscow.
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Officials blamed the outbreak on Russian lax attitudes towards taking precautions, the increasing prevalence of the more contagious delta variant, and widespread reluctance to vaccinate. The vaccination rate has remained lower than that of many Western countries. Only 28.6 million Russians – just 19.5% of the country’s 146 million people – have received at least one injection of the vaccine.
To speed up vaccination, authorities in nearly 30 Russian regions have made vaccination compulsory for certain groups of people, including those employed in healthcare, education, retail, public transport, government offices. and the service sector.
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Sobyanin said 3.8 million of Moscow’s 12.6 million people received at least one shot of the vaccine.
The Russian state coronavirus task force has reported 146,868 confirmed deaths in the pandemic, the highest toll in Europe. However, reports from the Russian state statistical service Rosstat, which retroactively counts coronavirus-related deaths, reveal much higher figures.
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