Cause for ‘particular concern’ Russia announces paid ‘non-working days’ to combat surging coronavirus cases and deaths. Moscow is to go into partial lockdown.

Evgeny Feldman for Meduza

As announced by President Vladimir Putin, Russia is to have paid “non-working days” from October 30 to November 7. This decision came against the backdrop of the record-breaking daily numbers of coronavirus cases and fatalities seen in October. Federal officials warn that the epidemiological situation is getting worse countrywide. The Moscow authorities are opting to go into a partial lockdown beginning on October 28 and plan to keep certain restrictions in place after the “non-working” period ends.

Russia will have paid “non-working days” from Saturday, October 30 to Sunday, November 7, President Vladimir Putin announced during a government meeting on Wednesday, October 20. In practice, this will only impact three business days: November 1–3. November 4 is a national holiday in Russia (Unity Day), making November 5–7 a long weekend. Accordingly, Putin ordered the government to pay compensation to businesses in the form of a ​​a one-time disbursement equivalent to one minimum-wage payment per employee. 

Regions facing more difficult epidemiological situations due to COVID-19 may announce non-working days beginning as early as this Saturday, October 23, and extend them beyond Sunday, November 7. 

Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova warned that the epidemiological situation in Russia is “trending towards becoming more complicated.” Over the past week, the coronavirus incidence rate per 100,000 people increased by 16 percent. What’s more, 65 percent of cases are popping up in regions outside of the traditional hotbeds of coronavirus spread — Moscow, the Moscow region, and St. Petersburg. In total, 35 regions recorded morbidity rates in excess of the nationwide average. Meanwhile, the death rate has crossed the threshold of 1,000 people per day, which, according to Golikova, is cause for “particular concern.” In addition, the country has failed to reach its herd immunity target — instead of the anticipated 80 percent, it’s currently at 45 percent (taking into account vaccinated people and recovered coronavirus patients).

In Moscow, the “non-working days” will begin early, starting on Thursday, October 28, and running until Sunday, November 7. During this period, the city will essentially go into a partial lockdown. Catering and non-food businesses will be suspended. Kindergartens and schools will close, while colleges and universities will switch to remote learning. Entertainment, cultural, and sports events will be canceled. Theaters and museums will be able to remain open at 50 percent capacity, and will require visitors to show QR codes with proof of vaccination, recovery from COVID-19, or a negative test result. Similar measures were also introduced in the Moscow region for the same period.

The authorities in Moscow and the Moscow region, like the federal government, promised to support businesses negatively impacted by the non-working days.

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Some restrictions will remain in place after the end of the “non-working” period. From November 8, Muscovites over the age of 60 and people with chronic illness who haven’t been vaccinated against COVID-19 or recovered from the virus in the last six months, will no longer be afforded free travel on public transport. Earlier, the Moscow Mayor’s Office announced that city residents over the age of 60 and those with chronic illnesses will be under a remote work and stay-at-home order from October 25, 2021 to February 25, 2022. After November 7, theaters and museums will operate at 70 percent capacity and continue to require QR codes for entry. QR codes will also be mandatory for attending public events with more than 500 people in attendance. Cafes and restaurants will not be required to ask customers to show QR codes.

Russia is currently seeing its highest incidence rates of the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. The ongoing coronavirus wave began in late spring, due to the spread of the delta variant, and reached its peak in the fall. Since October 14, Russia has reported more than 30,000 new coronavirus cases daily. On Thursday, October 21, the country hit another record number of newly confirmed cases — 36,339. Also on Thursday, Russia reported 1,036 coronavirus fatalities in the past 24 hours — a new daily death record. The daily coronavirus death toll first surpassed 1,000 people on October 16; it dipped down below 1,000 in the two days that followed, and has continued to grow since then.

Russia first declared a period of “non-working days” at the start of the pandemic, for one week beginning on March 30, 2020. In the end, the non-working period was extended for a total of 42 days, lasting until May 11, 2020. A shorter string of non-working days took place during the May holidays in the spring of 2021, lasting from May 4–7. Non-working days have also been declared at the regional level, as was the case in Moscow from June 12–21, 2021.

about COVID-19 in Russia

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We won’t give up Because you’re with us

I’m with you, Meduza

Text by Olga Korelina

Translation by Eilish Hart

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