Coronavirus: Lockdown eased in Moscow after nine weeks

A man on a scooter wearing a face mask outside the Kremlin in MoscowImage copyright
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From Monday, people will be allowed outside for exercise early under strict new rules

Authorities in Moscow have eased lockdown restrictions, even as case numbers continue to rise.

Parks and shopping centres in the Russian capital reopened and people were allowed out for walks and limited exercise for the first time in nine weeks.

President Vladimir Putin announced last week the country had passed the peak of its outbreak.

But infections are still rising, and some question lifting restrictions.

Russia reported another 9,035 confirmed cases and 162 deaths on Monday. In total the country has recorded 414,878 infections – the third highest number in the world after the US and Brazil – and a death toll of 4,855.

Officials say the low numbers of dead is due to high testing numbers. Critics however fear the true number is far higher.

A number of other European nations are also easing restrictions on Monday:

  • Primary schools reopen in Greece and England
  • Restaurants, cafes and museums open in the Netherlands, with bars serving customers again in Norway
  • Portugal’s cinemas and theatres open their doors
  • The Colosseum in Rome is once again allowing visitors, while the Grand Bazaar and Fatih mosque reopen in Istanbul

How is lockdown being lifted across Europe?

What’s happening in Moscow?

Moscow has been the epicentre of Russia’s outbreak. In May Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said he feared the capital’s case number could be three times higher than reported.

Now, Mr Sobyanin has ordered a swathe of businesses to reopen in the city from Monday – including car dealerships, book shops, launderettes and shopping malls.

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Parks too are allowing visitors, with new exercise rules announced. Mr Sobyanin said people would be allowed out for walks three times a week between 09:00 and 21:00 local time, using a rota system determined by their home address.

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Media captionHow Russia is using facial recognition to tackle Covid-19

The city’s residents can also go outside for exercise, but only between 05:00 and 09:00, and only if they wear a face mask.

However, authorities said a ban on public gatherings would remain in place until at least 14 June.

Some have mocked the tight rules on exercise. Comedian Maxim Galkin published a video on Instagram in which he impersonates the mayor and President Putin discussing a “breathing schedule” for Muscovites, which has been viewed more than six million times.

Why relax restrictions now?

At one point Russia reported more than 10,000 cases a day for more than a week. Moscow alone was accounting for up to 6,000 of those cases at its peak.

The rate of infections has started to slow nationwide. On Sunday, Moscow recorded 2,595 infections.

Still, some question the decision to further lift restrictions with new case numbers still so high.

The move comes after authorities doubled Moscow’s official death toll for the month of April. Journalists in the city had been accused of fake news and distortion for saying that the figure was far higher than reported.

President Putin sent some Russians back to work on 11 May, saying that although “danger remains” it was in everyone’s interest for the economy “to return to normal quickly”.

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Media captionPresident Putin said Russia’s coronavirus “non-working’ period” was coming to an end

Since then, Mr Putin has also rescheduled the annual Victory Day parade to 24 June. Originally scheduled for 9 May, it was cancelled due to coronavirus fears.

The president is widely expected to announce a new date for a vote on constitutional reforms – also cancelled due to the outbreak – which could scrap a ban on Mr Putin running for the presidency again.