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Moscow to go into lockdown amid daily record COVID deaths and infections

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By Euronews  with AFP
An emergency worker disinfects Leningradsky railway station in Moscow
An emergency worker disinfects Leningradsky railway station in Moscow   -   Copyright  Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr/AP

Moscow is to go into an 11-day lockdown, as Russia battles daily records for coronavirus deaths and infections.

The closure of all non-essential services will begin from 28 October, the capital’s mayor announced.

The lockdown will run in parallel with a nationwide holiday week from 30 October which was announced by president Vladimir Putin on Wednesday.

The president will refrain during this period from attending any events in person and will work remotely, the Kremlin announced.

For weeks, Russia has been breaking daily records for deaths and infections, records linked to the low vaccination rate.

Barely 32% of the population have been jabbed, and the authorities have been slow to react to the situation.

In the last few days, they have finally announced their first concrete measures, such as the setting up of health passes and the reinforcement of teleworking.

Moscow is by far the country's main epidemic centre and its mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, on Thursday ordered the suspension of work in most companies for a period that coincides with school holidays.

According to Mr Sobyanin, these measures are all the more necessary as "the situation in Moscow continues to evolve according to the worst case scenario".

Restaurants, beauty salons, clothing and furniture shops, sports halls and dance schools have eight days to get organised before the closure.

During these eleven days, Moscow's theatres and museums will be able to continue to receive the public but with a capacity reduced by half and on condition that they have a health pass. Restaurants will be able to sell take-away food.

From 8 November, a health pass will be required for all events with more than 500 people.

Moscow, like the rest of Russia, is facing the worst epidemic wave of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic in spring 2020.

According to Deputy Mayor Anastasia Rakova, the number of hospitalisations has tripled in one month.

Other Russian regions are experiencing a difficult situation, such as Vladimir, east of Moscow, where there is a lack of hospital beds. In Voronezh, cemeteries are reaching their limits in the face of the death toll.

On Thursday, Russia set a new record for the number of infections and deaths in the last 24 hours, with 1,036 new deaths and more than 36,000 new cases respectively.

The total death toll has now reached more than 227,000, according to government figures, making Russia the deadliest country in Europe. The national statistics agency Rosstat, which has a broader definition of Covid deaths, put the death toll at the end of August at a much higher 400,000.

The third wave of the epidemic is being driven by the more contagious Delta variant and the low level of compliance with mask wearing and distancing measures, particularly in transport and shops.

The vaccination campaign remains laborious due to widespread mistrust.

Vladimir Putin called again on Wednesday for his compatriots to show "responsibility" - a request repeated on Thursday by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishutin, who urged Russians to "listen to the president".

Russia has several nationally produced vaccines, including Sputnik V. The latter has not yet been approved by the European Union and the World Health Organization, despite independent studies proving its effectiveness.