Coronavirus: Putin eases Russian lockdown as cases rise

President Putin, 7 May 20Image copyright

Image caption

President Putin is staying at a residence outside Moscow and video-conferencing

Russian President Vladimir Putin says that from Tuesday the nationwide coronavirus lockdown will be eased and businesses will go back to work.

He said the country’s “non-working period” imposed to curb the virus had lasted six weeks.

The easing of restrictions will affect all sectors of the economy, Mr Putin said, but some regions may keep tighter controls if necessary.

Russia now has the third-highest number of confirmed infections worldwide.

In the last 24 hours it reported a record daily rise of 11,656 cases, bringing the official total to 221,344.

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That means Russia now has more confirmed cases than both Italy and the UK. Only Spain and the US have reported more infections.

According to official figures, 2,009 people in Russia have died from the virus. But some question the low figure, and believe the tally is far higher.

What did President Putin say?

In a televised address, the Russian leader announced an end to six weeks of countrywide restrictions, which he said had allowed the country to prepare its health system and save “many thousands of lives”.

“Starting from tomorrow, May 12, the national period of non-working days will be over for all sectors of the economy,” Mr Putin said. Individual regions however will be able to keep rules in place if needed.

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Media captionRussian hospital staff say they are “working without masks”

Large public events remain banned and people must still follow “strict sanitation demands”, but it is in everyone’s interest for the economy “to return to normal quickly”, he said, adding that construction and farming should be among the first industries to restart.

The address comes just days after the mayor of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin, extended the capital’s lockdown until 31 May.

Though construction and industrial workers must now return to work in the city, everyone must wear face masks and gloves in shops and on public transport.

Residents still cannot leave home unless to shop, work or walk the dog, and must have a digital permit to travel.

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Moscow is the epicentre of Russia’s outbreak, accounting for more than half the country’s official confirmed case and death totals.

Mr Sobyanin has however estimated that the capital may have more than 300,000 infections – about three times its confirmed tally of 115,909.

Over the weekend, Russia was forced to cancel its annual World War II Victory Day Parade due to the outbreak.

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Media captionThe BBC’s Steve Rosenberg reports from an empty Red Square, in Moscow