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Moscow mayor warns of possible ‘limited but HARSH’ lockdown, citing worsening Covid-19 situation

“We are very close to much more severe – temporary, but severe – decisions on restrictions,” Sergey Sobyanin said on Thursday. He noted that 600 Covid-19 patients have been hospitalized over the past 48 hours, and that Moscow has about 17,000 beds dedicated to coronavirus patients to date. Soon that number will exceed 20,000, he added, and “no European city can afford this.”

“Once again I’ll say, these capabilities are not endless,” Sobyanin told reporters.

Last Friday, Sobyanin rolled out a series of restrictions after Moscow reported 6,701 positive tests in a 24-hour period, the highest number since January. Local employees were formally given a paid week off – dovetailing with Monday’s celebration of Russia Day – while employers were encouraged to send a third of the workforce home.

Playgrounds, children’s amusement rides in parks, and entertainment venues were shuttered, while restaurants, bars and nightclubs were forced to close at 11pm. 

The measures don’t seem to have had the desired effect, however. On Thursday, Sobyanin said the new infections are mainly from new, more aggressive coronavirus variants, rather than the original Wuhan strain.

Moscow’s top coronavirus hospital currently has 1,447 patients, of which 407 are in the intensive care unit, and 110 are connected to a ventilator, its director told RT on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, only 1.8 million Moscow residents have been vaccinated, out of the population of some 20 million. While vaccinations have increased threefold on Thursday alone, “that’s still not enough,” Sobyanin said.

With the Russian capital hardest hit by the pandemic, its residents need to be the first in line to protect themselves from infection and death through vaccination, the mayor wrote on his blog earlier this week. He noted that everyone has access to “one of the best and most reliable vaccines,” referring to the Russian-developed Sputnik V.

Sobyanin has already taken the unprecedented step of mandating vaccinations not just for healthcare workers, but employees in “public-facing” industries. Up to 60% of employees will have to get vaccinated in industries such as transportation, banking, food and beverage business, beauty salons and barbershops, theaters, museums, gyms, spas and massage parlors.

While the decision to vaccinate or not is a matter of personal choice “so long as you sit at home,” those who go out in public and come into contact with others become “accomplices” to the pandemic, he said. 

“Moreover, if you work in an organization that serves a large circle of people, then in a pandemic it is definitely not only your own business, no matter what personal protective equipment you use,” Sobyanin concluded.

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