By Anton Zverev and Darya Korsunskaya
MOSCOW – Some businesses flouted the Russian capital’s new lockdown measures on Friday saying they needed to make ends meet amid a lack of state support, as nationwide deaths from COVID-19 hit a new record daily high blamed on slow vaccination take-up.
The restrictions allow only essential shops like pharmacies and supermarkets to remain open, while schools and state kindergartens are shut. Bars, cafes and restaurants are only allowed to operate takeaway and delivery services.
Some entrepreneurs said they were trying to keep their businesses going as they had not been promised state aid.
Elena, an administrator at a Moscow beauty salon, told Reuters she would continue admitting customers by appointment only.
“To hell with them … we’re going to work. We’ll just put up curtains … During the last lockdown we sat there for almost a month and there was almost no help. We have to survive somehow,” she said.
Pub-owner Vladimir said bars and clubs on busy streets had to close because of their prominent locations, but his pub, which is tucked away in a courtyard, would stay open.
“I would gladly close down due to the epidemiological situation, but unfortunately, no one is relieving me of my financial obligations – the rent, bills and so on,” he said. “We have got to the point where there is simply no choice.
“We are a local pub … not on a central street. No one is interested in us.”
The government has promised to provide some help and cheap loans to small businesses, but Moscow business groups say more is needed.
Vyacheslav, who works in several Moscow bars, said many remained open for regular customers and simply locked the doors.
“If there’s some kind of (police) inspection, then everyone just says they’re waiting for a (takeaway) order,” he says.
“If the inspection arrives, (staff) immediately start cooking a burger or a Danish hotdog which they give to the (customer) who leaves and then comes back 10 minutes later once the inspection is finished,” he said.
Moscow residents are allowed to leave their homes freely, unlike last year’s sweeping lockdown, but the new measures point to mounting official concern over the rising death toll.
Russia on Friday reported an all-time high of 1,163 COVID-19 nationwide deaths in the past 24 hours, with 39,849 new infections, including 7,511 in Moscow.
The Kremlin has blamed the record deaths on vaccine hesitancy. Some Russians say they are reluctant to get vaccinated due to mistrust of authorities or safety concerns and many have spurned the four vaccines Russia has registered, including the flagship Sputnik V.
As of Friday, official data showed that 51 million Russians were fully vaccinated. The total population, excluding annexed Crimea, is officially estimated at around 144 million.