1.2 Physical distancing
The President ended the nationwide paid leave on 12 May and encouraged, whenever possible, activities to resume in key economic sectors (construction, industry, agriculture, communications, energy and mining). Governors developed plans to ease the lockdown in their regions in accordance with recommendations of the Rospotrebnadzor. However, restrictions should be maintained for people over the age of 65, as well as for those with chronic conditions, and all mass gatherings are still forbidden.
The criteria and three stages plan to lift restrictions were presented by the Head of Rospotrebnadzor, Dr Popova on 6 May (http://kremlin.ru/events/president/news/63303):
• Step 1: allow sport workouts outside and walks with children, open small shops and small service facilities;
• Step 2: allow walking on the street with family members, open larger-scale retail facilities (limiting the number of clients) and some educational organizations;
• Step 3: Open parks and squares, all educational institutions, hotels and food service establishments will reopen
Dr Popova emphasized that each step will be taken upon evaluation of three indicators - COVID-19 cases growth rate; number of free beds in hospitals; SARS-CoV-2 testing coverage – and accompanied by adequate physical distancing, masks and gloves measures. In order to move to Step 1, regions should have a reproduction number under 1, 50% of beds available, and perform 70 daily tests per 100,000 inhabitants. (http://kremlin.ru/events/president/news/63340#sel=131:7:p,131:7:p).
Due to the diverse epidemiological situation and different regional responses, physical distancing is heterogeneous across the country. From early-/mid-June, however, most regions have started to ease the lockdown and on 29 July, all regions had started the transition process. The website “stopcoronavirus” displays an interactive map providing details on the transition stage of each region and the measures in place (https://xn--80aesfpebagmfblc0a.xn--p1ai/information).
In Moscow, the first step in lifting restrictions started on 12 May – companies involved in industry and construction were allowed to resume work. From 1 June, all non-food shops and some service sector businesses that do not generate long-term contacts (e.g. dry cleaning, repair shops) were able to re-open, as well as weekend fairs from 5 June. Almost all parks were re-opened (with an interactive map showing the current level of attendance), sports could be practiced outside until 09:00 in the morning and walks outside will be authorized for all – except patients with or suspected of COVID-19 and their contacts - according to a schedule system based on building of residence and supported by an interactive map (https://www.mos.ru/progulka). From 6 June, churches could reopen in Moscow and Moscow region, respecting maximal capacity (1 person per 4 square metres).
The self-isolation regime, that had been previously extended in Moscow until 14 June, ended on 8 June with a plan for gradual lifting of all associated measures by 23 June. From 9 June, QR code permits for travel and regulations for walks were cancelled, and some services and sectors resumed activities, such as hairdressers, employment agencies, veterinary clinics, theatre, circus and concert hall rehearsals. They were followed on 16 June by restaurants with terraces, museums and exhibition halls, libraries and dentists, among others. From 23 June, restaurants are able to serve inside while gyms, swimming pools, public sports and recreation facilities, kindergartens and other services are able to reopen (https://www.sobyanin.ru/otmena-samoizolyatsii-i-propuskov). Shopping centres have been open since 25 June except for their cinemas. From 13 July, all restrictions on educational institutions, cultural and recreational centres and parks were lifted. Nightclubs and other clubs can resume activity provided they limit entries to half of their maximum capacities. Masks are still compulsory on public transport, in medical facilities, shops and other public places but no longer have to be worn in the street. From 1 August, theatres, concerts and cinemas under 3000 seats will be able to open and fill their venues to half capacity (https://www.sobyanin.ru/otmena-ogranicheniy-obrazovanie-i-detskie-tsentry). Moscow beaches will be closed, and mass events remain prohibited.
In St Petersburg, restrictions were eased from 13 July: the subway resumed its usual schedule, individual services such as hairdressers and beauty salons are open (by appointment), as well as public institutions, social services and beaches, when following Rospotrebnadzor requirements. From July 27, kindergartens, museums, restaurants, shopping centres, swimming pools, fitness centres, and tour-operators could resume activities (https://www.gov.spb.ru/press/government/193097/).
The Chief Sanitary Doctor’s Decree (No. 31 of 16 October 2020) reintroduced mandatory mask wearing in public places, on public transport and in other places where large numbers of people gather. In response to the epidemiological situation, local bans on holding mass gatherings from 23:00 to 06:00 have been recommended. This targets venues such as nightclubs in the big cities. People aged over 65 and people with chronic conditions have also been advised to stay at home and avoid crowds (https://www.rospotrebnadzor.ru/files/news/0001202010270001.pdf). At the same time, President Putin announced on 29 October 2020 that there were no plans to introduce total lockdowns across the whole country, but possibly the targeted introduction of restrictive measures on the recommendations of doctors (https://tass.ru/ekonomika/9849247).
The Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media developed an application for users to voluntarily report, a coronavirus case in order to inform all potential contacts about the risk of infection (http://rg.ru/2020/11/17/mincifry-razrabotalo-prilozhenie-dlia-otslezhivaniia-kontaktov-s-covid-19.html). The Ministry stated that the use of the application was anonymous and safe and did not require registration.
A nationwide paid leave ran from 28 March until 11 May (extended twice from the initial deadline of 5 April) in order to encourage Russians to stay at home and slow the spread of the virus. Essential ministries, departments, and enterprises were expected to continue operating. Regional authorities were granted additional powers to determine the specific physical distancing measures that are relevant for the local epidemiological situation. Decisions about which additional enterprises, organizations, transport continue operating were therefore made at regional level, in coordination with the Federal Government as necessary.
Under the self-isolation regime, Moscow citizens could leave their homes only to go to the nearest grocery shop and pharmacy, to go to work for essential approved services and to walk their dogs (100m max.), while many services, including for food, were still available by home delivery and travel between Moscow City and Moscow region were still allowed. While kindergartens could remain open with voluntary attendance until 12 April, all schools and other education institutions have been closed since 23 March and summer camps cancelled until 31 July. St. Petersburg has extended its coronavirus lockdown until 31 May.
Administrative and penal liability has been introduced for breaking quarantine or sanitary rules (up to 2 million RUB fines and 7-year imprisonment). Some regions have put in place official authorization systems to leave home: as of 27 April, 21 regions were introducing digital travel passes. Since 13 April, this pass system has been piloted for trips within Moscow and Moscow region by personal or public transport. To aid implementation of self-isolation rules, several regions restricted the hours for alcohol sales or banned the retail sale of alcohol, a measure which was supported by the Ministry of Health.
Prior to this, physical distancing measures were initiated early and extended gradually. Moscow city often acted ahead of the Federal Government, implementing more comprehensive measures. From February, the Federal Government cancelled some major events as a precautionary measure and Rospotrebnadzor recommended that people avoid public transport, shopping malls and other public places at rush hour.
In mid-March several government sectors announced a reduction in their activities to try and limit the spread of the virus: Russian courts only consider the most urgent cases, the Federal Penitentiary Service suspended visits to inmates in pre-trial detention centres and prisons. The Ministry of Education created a working group with Rospotrebnadzor to develop a single procedure for organizing and supporting distance learning, which was encouraged for all schools and universities.
Social gatherings were gradually reduced and teleworking promoted. In Moscow and St Petersburg, events of more than 50 people have been prohibited as of 16 March. Moscow closed all sports facilities on 21 March, followed by all cultural and recreational places for adults and children. The Federal government cancelled all sporting and cultural events and most large gatherings from 25 March. The Mayor of Moscow urged employers to promote teleworking as much as possible from 18 March. State services centres and state institutions moved to working by appointment only and then online on 25 March. Federal government employees switched to remote work from 27 March.
From 26 March in Moscow, citizens over 65 years of age, (who had already been advised to stay at home for the previous ten days), as well as citizens with diagnosed chronic conditions, were compelled to go in quarantine until 1 May (extended from 12 April) (https://www.mos.ru/upload/documents/docs/26-YM.pdf). This does not apply to healthcare workers or managers and staff whose presence is vital for the functioning of public or private organizations.
Additional public health measures were introduced. Smoking hookah in cafés and restaurants was prohibited. Subsidised public transport cards for schoolchildren and college/university students were suspended to reduce their use of public transport unless they are volunteers or working. Public meal organizations moved to providing food by delivery only. On 28 March, the Moscow Rospotrebnadzor services started disinfecting buildings where persons who tested positive with COVID-19 live, while all Moscow community buildings were advised to intensify regular cleaning with disinfectants. Additional cleaning and disinfection of public places was introduced in Moscow, including in public transport and metro stations.