Moscow’s mayor announced four months of stay-at-home restrictions for unvaccinated over-60s on Tuesday and the Russian government proposed a week-long workplace shutdown as the national death toll from COVID-19 hit yet another daily high.
The moves reflected a growing sense of urgency from the authorities as they confront fast-rising cases and widespread public reluctance to get injected with the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine.
Moscow, a city of 12.7 million, ordered people over the age of 60 to stay home for four months starting on Oct. 25 unless they are vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19, and for businesses to move at least 30 per cent of their staff to remote work.
“The number of people hospitalized with a severe form of the disease is increasing every day,” Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin wrote on his website.
“The most alarming thing is the situation with COVID infection among the older generation,” he added, saying over-60s accounted for 60 per cent of patients, nearly 80 per cent of people on ventilators, and 86 per cent of deaths.
The new measures were announced hours after Russia reported 1,015 coronavirus-related deaths, the latest in a string of single-day death toll records in recent weeks. As well, there were 33,740 new cases of the virus reported in the past 24 hours.
Only about 30 per cent of the Russian population is fully vaccinated, despite the wide availability of the Sputnik V vaccine, which has even been exported for use in other countries.
Kremlin urges vaccination
Speaking at a government meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova proposed that Oct. 30 to Nov. 7 be deemed non-working days to combat rising infections. Russia introduced similar measures earlier in the pandemic.
Golikova said people should have to present QR codes on their mobile phones to prove they had been vaccinated or had recovered from COVID-19 in order to attend some public events or visit certain facilities.
Russia’s regions should decide for themselves whether unvaccinated pensioners should be ordered to self-isolate or whether extra vacation should be offered to workers as an incentive for getting vaccinated, she said.
The Kremlin, too, repeated the call for Russians to get inoculated.
“There is a tradition of blaming the state for everything. Of course, the state feels and knows its share of responsibility,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters, acknowledging more could have been done to explain the importance of vaccination to the public.
“But a more responsible position is needed from all citizens of our country. Now each of us must show responsibility … and get vaccinated.”
Many Russian regions plan to keep cafés, museums and other public venues open only to those who have recently recovered from COVID-19 or have proof of inoculation with a Russian vaccine or a negative coronavirus test.
The Oryol region, around 325 kilometres southwest of Moscow, had run out of hospital beds, the RIA news agency quoted Gov. Andrei Klychkov as saying.
In Crimea, the peninsula Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, health officials said people working in sectors such as tourism, hospitality, education and health care would have to get vaccinated.