MOSCOW, Russia: As Russia recorded the highest numbers of coronavirus infections and deaths since the pandemic began in 2020, beginning 28th October Moscow's restaurants, movie theaters and many retail stores will be closed for 11 days, officials said on Thursday.
On October 21, the government coronavirus task force reported 36,339 new infections and 1,036 deaths, bringing the country's total death toll to 227,389.
Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin has expressed concern at the hesitancy of Russians to become vaccinated, despite refusing to make vaccinations mandatory.
He also ordered Russians to stay at home and not go to work from 30th October to 7th November during a four-day national holiday, while Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has implemented new restrictions in the city.
Moscow's gyms, cinemas and other entertainment venues, as well as most stores, along with kindergartens and schools, will close from 28th October to 7th November. Restaurants and cafes will be open for takeouts and deliveries only, though groceries and pharmacies will remain open.
Sobyanin stressed that unvaccinated people over 60 years old must remain home, except for brief walks and outdoor exercise, and from 24th October, one-third of employees in every business must work remotely for three months.
Only about 45 million Russians, roughly one-third of its nearly 146 million people, are fully vaccinated.
Russia was the first country in the world to authorize a coronavirus vaccine, the Sputnik V, in August 2020, and has enough supplies. But Russians are still reluctant to become vaccinated.
Putin, who was vaccinated with Sputnik V earlier this year, told a panel of foreign policy experts, "There are just two options for everyone, to get sick or receive a vaccine."
Some critics have blamed the slow rate of vaccinations on conflicting signals from authorities. Russia is still waiting for the World Health Organization to approve Sputnik V.
After imposing an early nationwide lockdown, the Russian government, fearing further damage to the economy and negatively affecting Putin's popularity, has been reluctant to reimplement such measures. Instead, regional authorities are authorized to decide on local restrictions.
But Sobyanin said tougher measures are now inevitable, stressing, "The experience shows non-working days are the most effective way to reduce contagion and deaths."