UPDATE – Moscow mayor extends COVID-19 restrictions over spike in cases


By Elena Teslova

MOSCOW (AA) – Moscow's mayor on Friday extended coronavirus restrictions for 10 more days in an attempt to contain the deteriorating situation in the Russian capital.

In a decree, Sergey Sobyanin announced that food courts, children's playrooms and zoos will remain closed for visitors till June 29, while parks continue to be open for walks only.

The catering services, nightclubs, bars, discos, and karaoke venues are prohibited from receiving visitors from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. [2000-0300GMT]. Only takeaway service is allowed during these hours.

The decree introduced a limit on the number of people who can simultaneously be present at entertainment events with 1,000 people and banned zones that do not provide seats, including fan zones and dance floors. The rule also covers EURO 2020 fan zones.

According to Sobyanin, almost 90% of all new cases — 89.3% — are accounted for the so-called "Indian" strain of COVID-19, also known as Delta strain.

Delta strain is more aggressive, spreads faster, and in order to successfully resist it, people must have an immune system and level of antibodies twice as much as needed to counter the Wuhan strain of COVID-19, he said.

The strength of the mutated strain is causing an "explosive, huge" increase in hospital admissions, Sobyanin said, every day about 300 new patience are assigned to hospitals.

Currently hospital capacity mounts to 17,000 beds, in the nearest time it will be increased till 24,000.

In the meantime, the Moscow authorities agreed with the suggestion that some restaurateurs hold an experiment of organizing "COVID Free" food service points to support businesses.

The experiment starts on June 19 and it will be held in 15-20 restaurants for the beginning.

The experiment suggests canceling the restrictive measures for the restaurants that will only serve people who can confirm receiving the second dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

The vaccination is supposed to be confirmed by showing a special QR code, generated with the State Services mobile app.

Individuals under 18 years old can visit such eating places without providing QR code but only when accompanied by their vaccinated parents or other legal representatives, who can confirm having received the jab.

The restaurants taking part in the experiment must check the validity of QR codes and correlation between the data in the QR code and ID card, prevent people who fake the vaccination confirmation from entering.

Only restaurants that have no more than two violations of restrictive measure in 90 days prior to the experiment are eligible for applying to take part in the experiment.

The list of restaurants joining the experiment will be published on the Moscow City Hall website after the officials check the applications and choose the most suitable venues.

On Friday, Russia has registered the biggest daily spike since Feb. 1 as 17,262 people tested positive for COVID-19 over the last 24 hours, taking the caseload to 5.28 million.

Recoveries grew by 10,954 over the past day to reach 4.85 million while fatalities went up by 453, taking the death toll to 128,445.

Moscow, for its part, has seen the biggest number of infections since the beginning of the pandemic — 9,056 people contracted the virus since Thursday.