Moscow closes EURO 2020 fan zone as it battles COVID-19 surge

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By Euronews  with AFP, AP
People wearing face mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus ride the underground in Moscow, Russia June 10, 2021.
People wearing face mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus ride the underground in Moscow, Russia June 10, 2021.   -  Copyright  AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

Moscow announced it is closing its EURO 2020 fan zone as the Russian capital registers a record number of new COVID-19 cases.

Russia's Coronavirus Task Force revealed on Friday that 17,262 new COVID-19 infections had been recorded across the country over the previous 24 hours. Of those, 9,056 were observed in Moscow alone — the highest daily tally observed in the Russian capital since the beginning of the pandemic.

A further 453 deaths were also registered nationally, bringing the country's total death toll to 128,445, the sixth highest in the world.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin announced on Friday that the EURO 2020 fan zone at the Luzhniki Olympic complex has been shut down and introduced a ban on all events involving more than 1,000 people.

Russia is hosting a total of seven Euro football matches, all in St Petersburg, the country's second city, where the outbreak has also returned.

"We are stopping mass entertainment events for a while, and we also have to close dance venues and the fan zone for a while," Sobyanin said on his website.

The closure of restaurants in shopping centres, as well as zoos and all facilities in public parks including playgrounds and sports facilities, which was decreed last weekend, has also been extended to June 29.

Restaurants and bars also have to adhere to a nighttime curfew running from 23:00 to 06:00.

Finally, he announced that the city would be experimenting in the coming weeks with the introduction of "Covid free" restaurants, which will allow establishments with 100% of their staff vaccinated to welcome people who have been immunised or who have a negative PCR test without restrictions or distancing.

Despite touting its home-grown Sputnik V vaccine internationally, Russia struggles to inoculate its own population.

Since December, only 19 million of the country's 146 million population have received at least one dose, according to the census of the Gogov website, which aggregates data from regions and media in the absence of official national statistics.

In Moscow, 1.8 million people have received at least one injection out of the city's official population of 12 to 13 million.

The Russian capital and surrounding region is among four regions that made vaccination mandatory this week for workers in retail, education and other service sectors, part of an effort to boost the country's low immunisation rates.

Officials in the four regions ordered businesses and institutions involved in retail, education, health care, public transportation, beauty, entertainment and other industries that serve a large number of people to ensure that at least 60% of their staff are fully vaccinated.

Authorities in the far-east region of Sakhalin did not set a deadline but said that individuals who refuse to get vaccinated without a valid medical reason would be suspended from work until they got their shots.