Russia steps up Coronavirus restrictions as infections surge

Russia steps up Coronavirus restrictions as infections surge


Russia has brought in tighter restrictions to try to stem a surge in coronavirus cases, making the wearing of face masks compulsory in all crowded places including public transport.

Russia's consumer health watchdog also advises regional governments to close bars and restaurants between 23:00 and 06:00.

On Tuesday Russia reported a daily record of 320 deaths from the virus.

    Monday saw the number of new infections hit a record 17,347 over 24 hours.

    The country has the world's fourth highest number of Covid-19 cases after the US, India and Brazil.

    Earlier this week the Kremlin warned that the coronavirus outbreak was moving from Moscow - which has seen about a third of all Russia's cases - to other regions.

    The latest moves come as other countries across Europe report record increases in cases. In Italy, protests have broken out in towns and cities against a new round of restrictions. Meanwhile in Belgium doctors have been asked to keep working, even if they have the virus, because the health system is in danger of being overwhelmed.

    What are the new rules in Russia?

    From Wednesday, face masks will be mandatory in all potentially crowded areas including public transport, taxis, car parks and lifts, public health watchdog Rospotrebnadzor said. Regional authorities will have responsibility for implementing the new rules.

    Russia brought in similar measures at the beginning of the initial outbreak in the spring but lifted them in July as the number of cases eased.

    In addition, Rospotrebnadzor head Anna Popova recommended an overnight curfew for bars, restaurants and other public venues. Other recommendations include increased efforts to disinfect public transport, taxis and public spaces.

    In total, Russia has recorded more than 1.5 million infections and 26,400 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

    This summer, Russia declared "victory" over Covid-19 but it's now seeing a fresh surge in cases and a record number of deaths.

    Even so, the country has been reluctant to reintroduce significant restrictions. President Putin recently assured businesses that there would be no, new national lockdown - to protect the economy as far as possible.

    But the latest steps - enforcing face masks and recommending a curfew on nightlife - follow a flurry of reports from Russia's provinces about hospitals running out of beds, overflowing morgues and overworked doctors.

    In Moscow, more than 1,000 Covid patients are admitted to hospital each day. But the facemask rules in the capital have already been tightened, and clubbers and bar-goers already have to register their phones. City officials say the rate of new infections has been slowing, so they won't force venues to implement the new curfew - or close "any sectors of the economy" - for now.

    What is happening elsewhere in Europe?

    In Italy, a protest against new restrictions in the northern city of Turin ended in police firing tear gas at demonstrators on Monday evening. Clashes were also reported in Milan. People have reacted angrily to the closures of restaurants, bars, gyms and cinemas from 18:00. The country has seen regular protests since new rules were brought in last Friday.

    Researchers at the UK's Imperial College London say immunity against coronavirus may only last a few months after infection. They say the number of people testing positive for antibodies fell by about a quarter between June and September, with the biggest drop in those over 65.

    Officials in Belgium have warned that the country might be put into a second lockdown amid fears that the health system is about to be overwhelmed by a spike in Covid-19 infections. Ten hospitals have asked medics who have tested positive - but shown no symptoms - to continue working.

    In France, the government's health defence council will meet today to discuss stricter measures to cope with rising numbers of cases. Extending curfews already in place in Paris and other cities is among the options, French media report. Interior minister Gerald Darmanin warned people to prepare for "difficult decisions".

    Slovakia is to begin testing its entire population from this weekend, hoping the measure will allow it to avoid harsher anti-coronavirus measures. Prime Minister Igor Matovic hopes to identify tens of thousands of infected people who, together with their families, would then spend the next 10 days in quarantine. "We had only two options, either general testing or complete lockdown," he said on Monday.

    The Czech Republic has introduced a night-time curfew, which came into effect on Tuesday at midnight for a week. No-one will be allowed to leave their home between 21:00 and 04:59 except to travel to and from work, for medical reasons or a few other exceptions. All shops will be shut on Sundays and will close at 20:00 on other days.