Moscow restricts visits to bars, restaurants to curb COVID-19 wave

A specialist wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) sprays disinfectant while sanitizing the Rizhsky Railway Station, one of the measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Moscow, Russia June 17, 2021. Moscow Division of Russian Emergencies Ministry/Handout via REUTERS

MOSCOW, June 22 (Reuters) - Moscow's mayor ordered bars and restaurants to serve people only if they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 or had had an infection indicating immunity - one of the Russian capital's toughest steps to fight the pandemic since last year's lockdown.

The Kremlin has blamed a renewed wave of infections over the last two weeks on the Delta variant and the slow pace of its vaccination programme even though four domestically-produced vaccines have been approved for use.

Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on Tuesday the new restrictions would take effect on June 28 and were needed to avert a stringent new lockdown.

Residents who want to visit cafes, restaurants or bars will be required to present a QR-code showing they have either been vaccinated, had a confirmed COVID-19 infectionwithin the past 6 months, or tested negative within the last 3 days.

The Kremlin told Russians on Tuesday it was inevitable they could face discrimination in the workplace if they did not get vaccinated or had not COVID-19.

"People without vaccination or immunity will not be able to work everywhere. It will not be possible. It will pose a threat to those around them," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Sobyanin said that similar rules had been in place for months in many cities in Europe and Asia.

"... It's time for Moscow to adopt their experience if we want to avoid a new, highly undesirable lockdown, which will be a terrible blow to thousands of people working in the catering industry," he said.

Russia reported 546 coronavirus-related deaths nationwide on Tuesday, the most confirmed in a single day since February. New positive-test cases totalled 16,715.

Moscow has throughout the pandemic reported the most cases on a daily basis out of any Russian region. The city has not been put in lockdown since June 2020. Authorities have said targeted measures are sufficient.

They are trying to coax and compel people to get vaccinated, offering those who do the chance to win new cars and flats, while threatening others who don't with loss of earnings and dismissal. read more

Sobyanin said that more than 2 million Moscow residents had now received at least one vaccine dose and that the number of people who have registered to get a shot has increased significantly.

By June 2, around 18 million of Russia's 144 million population had received at least one dose of vaccine.

Reporting by Polina Devitt and Anastasia Teterevleva; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Andrew Heavens

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