April 23, 2020 / 12:27 PM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-Coronavirus cases in Russia fall for third day, Kremlin says situation still tense

(Recasts with new details)

By Tom Balmforth and Maria Kiselyova

MOSCOW, April 23 (Reuters) - Russia’s official coronavirus data showed tentative signs of a flattening infection curve on Thursday, but the Kremlin said the situation remained tense and officials moved to tighten lockdown measures in 21 Russian regions.

Russia reported 4,774 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, a fall in its daily case tally for the third day running, bringing its nationwide total to 62,773. Forty-two people with the virus died overnight, pushing the death toll to 555, officials said.

Moscow, which has borne the brunt of Russia’s epidemic so far and is in its fourth week of a lockdown, recorded 1,959 new cases, its lowest daily tally since April 17. But officials also said the number of sick people being hospitalised was rising.

Moscow’s mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, said hospitals might reach their full capacity in three to four weeks if the capital’s infection rate continued at the same pace.

Moscow’s authorities rushed to add more hospital beds last week, fearing that they were running out of space.

Moscow’s residents are only allowed outside to buy food or medicine nearby, receive medical treatment, walk the dog or take out the rubbish. Last week, authorities introduced a digital permit system for anyone wanting to travel by transport.

Russia’s Communications Ministry said late on Wednesday there were plans to roll out a similar system in 21 regions, requiring employers to supply lists of staff if their companies had been given dispensation to continue working despite lockdowns.

Those people would be issued digital passes on a government website, it said, adding that people would be able to apply individually for other reasons too.

“All measures that could be effective must be taken. The situation remains quite tense,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

The pass system has raised fears among rights advocates that authorities could use it to harvest data, such as residential addresses, which could later be leaked online or used for other purposes.

The Agora rights advocacy group on Thursday urged regional governors to offer guarantees that personal data would be destroyed when no longer needed and not be passed on. (Additional reporting by Gleb Stolyarov and Alexander Marrow Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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