MOSCOW (AP) — The mayor of Moscow announced new pandemic restrictions on Tuesday, saying the situation in the capital where the delta variant of the virus is spreading remains “very difficult.”
The country’s state coronavirus task force reported 6,555 new COVID-19 cases in Moscow on Tuesday and a total 16,715 new infections across Russia, both tallies twice as high as a month ago.
“The decisions that we’re making are difficult, unpopular, but necessary for saving people’s lives,” Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said in an online statement, adding that more than 14,000 people severely ill with COVID-19 remain in the city’s hospitals.
He has attributed the infection spike to the delta variant that first appeared in India.
Sobyanin banned all entertainment and sports events at which more than 500 people are present starting Tuesday.
And starting Monday, all restaurants, cafes and bars in Moscow will only allow in customers who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, recovered from the virus within the past six months or can provide a negative coronavirus test carried out in the previous 72 hours.
To prove their credentials, customers will need to obtain a QR code at one of several government websites.
Coronavirus infections surged in the Russian capital two weeks ago, prompting the city authorities to order mandatory vaccinations for workers in retail, education and other service sectors. Russians have widely avoided vaccination, and less than 13% of the population has received at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine.
Sobyanin said Tuesday that with mandatory vaccinations in place, the number of Muscovites who have received at least one shot has exceeded 2 million – or just under 16% of the city’s 12.7-million population.
Life in Moscow, as in most of Russia, has remained largely normal after lockdown restrictions were lifted last summer. Russian authorities resisted shutting down businesses or imposing another lockdown when infections soared in the fall and winter, and continue to reject the idea of a lockdown during the current surge.
More than 5.3 million confirmed infections have been reported so far in the country of 146 million, with 130,347 deaths.