Russia orders wider use of face masks, recommends bar closures as infections rise


Posted at Oct 27 2020 11:52 PM

People wearing face masks walk in a park, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Moscow, Russia October 27, 2020. Evgenia Novozhenina, Reuters

MOSCOW - Russia on Tuesday ordered people across the country to wear face masks in some public places and asked regional authorities to consider an overnight curfew on bars and restaurants after a surge in coronavirus cases.

The consumer health watchdog Rospotrebnadzor told regional authorities to make masks mandatory in parking lots, elevators, taxis, public transport and crowded public places. Some cities, including the capital Moscow, have already made masks mandatory on public transport.

It also suggested closing bars, restaurants and late-night entertainment facilities between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. (2000 GMT to 0300 GMT). The RIA news agency had earlier reported this as an order, not a recommendation.

The authorities in Moscow rejected closing restaurants and bars given that they already use a QR-code system to register the people attending late-night entertainment venues.

Russia, which recorded 16,550 infections on Tuesday, has seen a surge in new cases in recent weeks, prompting the authorities to open temporary hospitals and urge the population to take precautionary measures.

The authorities have said they will not repeat the total lockdowns imposed across the country earlier this year.

Asked about a plea by doctors from the Kurgan region to President Vladimir Putin for reinforcements, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the country's health system could sustain the additional pressure from the pandemic, but added that some problems were inevitable.

"Conceptually speaking, the healthcare system is much better prepared for the epidemiological stress it is currently experiencing," he told reporters.

Russia in August became the first country to grant regulatory approval for a vaccine after less than two months of human testing. Large-scale trials are now underway. Regulators approved a second vaccine earlier this month.

Russia has reported 1,547,774 infections, the world's fourth largest number of cases after the U.S., India and Brazil.

The country's coronavirus task force said on Monday that 320 people had died in the previous 24 hours, raising the official death toll to 26,589. 

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