Moscow begins lockdown in push to curb virus

MOSCOW (AFP) – Moscow, with its more than 12 million people, went into lockdown yesterday while other parts of Russia moved to introduce similar steps to curb the coronavirus outbreak.

The enforcement of the strict new rules, which Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin suddenly announced for the capital late Sunday, coincide with the beginning of a “non-working” week declared by President Vladimir Putin last Wednesday.

Moscow, which has become the epicentre of the contagion in Russia, announced the new measures after many Muscovites failed to heed official recommendations to self-isolate and instead went to parks for barbecues at the weekend.

Yesterday, the streets of Europe’s most populous city, were quiet following the closure of restaurants, cafes and non-essential shops, but traffic could still be seen on the roads.

In central Moscow, residents appeared to have taken the restrictions to heart.

An empty street near Kremlin, Moscow in Russia on March 30. PHOTO: AFP

Patriarch Ponds, a normally bustling park in the centre of the capital, was deserted in the morning except for a lone woman walking her corgi.

Police cars drove slowly through the streets, looking out for Muscovites breaking the rules. A handful of city workers were sweeping the sidewalks, with the occasional pedestrian rushing past carrying grocery or rubbish bags.

At a government meeting, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin asked regional authorities to prepare for Moscow-style lockdowns, saying it was important to pre-empt a major outbreak.

Over the past 24 hours Russia has recorded 302 new cases – the biggest daily increase so far – taking the total tally to 1,835 cases of coronavirus and nine deaths.

“I ask regional heads to work on the introduction of quarantines similar to the one introduced in Moscow,” Mishustin said.

Several regions including the Moscow region and the Murmansk region have already imposed or were preparing to impose strict quarantines. The Western exclave region of Kaliningrad will go under lockdown today.