In Moscow, Theo Merz reports on what’s been called a “decisive” week in the fight against the virus there:

Moscow on Monday began enforcing measures to keep a third of office workers at home, as Russia continues to report record numbers of new Coronavirus cases.

Sergei Sobyanin, the mayor of the Russian capital, said that this week would be “decisive” in Moscow’s fight against the virus.

“There are more and more people in hospitals, and the number of people in a very serious condition is increasing,” Sobyanin said at the weekend, but insisted that a Russia-produced vaccine would be ready for “mass roll-out” in the coming months.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, centre, at the launch of a new train on the city’s Metro last week. Photograph: Maxim Mishin/TASS

Moscow imposed a strict lockdown in the spring, but relaxed measures in June ahead of a nationwide vote on constitutional changes that will allow President Vladimir Putin to rule until 2036.

On Monday, Russia reported more than 13,000 new cases, bringing its total number of Covid infections to around 1.3 million. Some 22,000 deaths have been registered, a lower proportion than other badly hit countries. This has led to suggestions that Russia is underreporting fatalities, a charge officials deny.

Moscow is the worst-hit area and infections in the capital have increased by 40 percent over the last week, to 4,395.

The mayor’s office has demanded that businesses provide data on their employees to prove that at least 30 percent of them are working from home. Businesses that fail to comply risk fines or temporary closure.

Sobyanin has previously instructed over 65s and people with underlying conditions to self-isolate.

Restrictions in Moscow remain relatively relaxed compared to most other European cities. Bars, clubs and theatres are open, while mask-wearing on public transport is patchy.

Russian media have reported that restaurants and clubs may close again if case numbers continue to grow, and state television has shown commuters being fined for not wearing masks.

Meanwhile more than 10,000 people have taken part in tests for Russia’s controversial “Sputnik V” vaccine, the news agency Interfax reported on Monday. Putin announced in August that the vaccine had been approved and was safe for use, before it had passed the final stage of trials.



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