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Moscow Lifts its Coronavirus Restrictions  

10
Jun,2020

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After more than 2 months of shutdown due to the coronavirus, Russia’s capital sprung back to life this week —  with city authorities lifting restrictions on most business closings and stay at home rules for Moscow’s 12 million plus residents.   Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin announced the policy shift Monday — arguing the city had made great progress against the virus, with the pandemic “slowly but surely” on the decline over the past few weeks.  “The struggle isn’t over. But nonetheless, I want to congratulate you with our latest victory and big step towards a return to normal life,” added Nail technicians wearing face masks and gloves perform manicure and pedicure for their clients in a nail bar in Moscow, Russia, June 9, 2020.“Why is it too fast? Some restrictions are in place, others will be lifted in the course of a week or two. It’s not a full cancellation,” said Peskov.   “Sobyanin used his authority and analyzing the situation on the ground…made the decision,” added Peskov.The Mayor’s Shift   The new rules mark a distinct turnaround for Mayor Sobyanin, who became — or was made — the face of the government effort to fight the pandemic early on.   It was left to Sobyanin — rather than President Putin — to introduce unpopular measures such as self-isolation requirements and a digital pass system strictly limiting movement around the city.    Supporters credited the mayor with keeping fatalities lower than comparatively large metropolises like New York and London — even as western media organizations have raised serious doubts over how accurately Russia counts its dead.  And there were plenty of gaffes, too.  An intrusive city tracking app went haywire and randomly fined residents. Sobyanin’s attempt to schedule walks for residents building by building was mocked widely as out of touch with reality.   Yet few could argue Sobyanin was not at least trying to stop the virus.  As recently as late May, Sobyanin insisted on strict guidelines for easing the coronavirus lockdown, arguing public safety could only be assured once new infection rates had fallen dramatically.  But by this week all that had changed.  The digital passes were gone. Beaty salons and barber shops were open.  Crowds were on the sidewalks.  Traffic was back at its usual hum. “Yesterday these roads were empty. Now look at all these people,” grumbled Roman, a taxi driver, who admitted he had largely ignored city requirements to wear a mask and gloves. “Why bother? They do it just to scare people,” he tells VOA. Indeed, Sobyanin may have simply have bowed to the inevitable: with summer weather temperatures arriving over the weekend, the mayor was in effect lifting restrictions that increasingly few were bothering to follow.  Either way, Muscovites appeared to welcome the change in policy and weather — with many ignoring ongoing requirements to wear a mask in public as they strolled city streets and gathered in groups outside.    Only surveying the crowds, some observers predicted an inevitable second wave of infections to come. “Hold this damn parade and damn vote at any price. And how many of you get sick or die, makes no difference,” wrote Echo of Moscow Radio’s ombudsman Anton Orekh in a scathing post about Moscow’s sudden return to normal. “There’s nothing to celebrate or be happy about,” added Orekh.  “If you can — stay home and take care of yourself three times more than before.” 


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