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Moscow orders new restrictions as COVID-19 infections soar

·2 min read

MOSCOW (AP) — Moscow's mayor on Saturday ordered a week off for some workplaces and imposed restrictions on many businesses to fight coronavirus infections that have more than doubled in the past week.

The national coronavirus taskforce reported 6,701 new cases of infection in Moscow, compared with 2,936 on June 6. Nationally, the daily infection tally has spiked by nearly half over the past week, to 13,510.

After several weeks of lockdown as the pandemic spread in the spring of 2020, Moscow eased restrictions and did not reimpose any during subsequent case increases. But because of the recent sharp rise, “it is impossible not to react to such a situation,” Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said.

He ordered that enterprises that do not normally work on weekends remain closed for the next week while continuing to pay employees. In addition, food courts and children's play areas in shopping centers are to close for a week beginning Sunday, and restaurants and bars must limit their service to takeout from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Earlier in the week, city authorities said enforcement of mask- and glove-wearing on mass transit, in stores and in other public places would be strengthened and that violators could face fines of up to 5,000 rubles ($70).

Although Russia was the first country to deploy a coronavirus vaccine, its use has been relatively low; many Russians are reluctant to get vaccinated.

President Vladimir Putin on Saturday said 18 million Russians have received the vaccine — about 12% of the population.

For the entire pandemic period, the task force has reported nearly 5.2 million infections in the country of about 146 million people, and 126,000 deaths. However, a report from the state statistics agency Rosstat on Friday found more than 144,000 virus-related deaths last year alone.

The statistics agency, unlike the taskforce, counts fatalities in which coronavirus infection was present or suspected but is not the main cause of death.

The agency’s report found about 340,000 more people died in 2020 than in 2019; it did not give details of the causes of the higher year-on-year death toll. The higher death toll and a lower number of births combined to make an overall population decline of 702,000, about twice the decline in 2019, Rosstat said.

Jim Heintz, The Associated Press

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