Moscow announces strict containment of its population

In Moscow, March 29, 2020.
In Moscow, March 29, 2020. Victor Berezkin / AP

As of March 30, the roughly 20 million residents of Moscow and its suburbs will join the three billion people in strict confinement across the planet. The announcement was made Sunday evening by the city hall of the Russian capital, in the face of the worsening of the epidemic of Covid-19.

“Containment will be in effect for all residents of Moscow, regardless of age”, whereas it has only concerned people over 65 since March 23, said a press release from the city’s mayor, Sergei Sobianin.

Muscovites will only be allowed to leave their homes to go to work, take out the trash, get supplies “At the nearest store” or in a pharmacy, or in case of vital necessity. Pets are only allowed to walk within 100 meters of the home.

No date for the end of the measurements

These measures take effect from March 30, without mentioning an end date, and also concern the large administrative region that surrounds the capital. Access to it will not be closed and public transport will continue to operate there. On Sunday evening, Sergei Sobyanin also said that those who lost their jobs in Moscow because of the quarantine would receive monthly compensation of 19,500 rubles (220 euros).

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This announcement comes after several days of sharp increases in contamination in the country. According to the latest assessment provided Sunday by the health authorities, Russia has 270 more patients, for a total of 1,534 cases, including 1,014 in Moscow. The country also recorded eight deaths linked to the epidemic.

This increase corresponds both to a simplification of the testing procedure, over the past week, and to a progression of the disease, potentially disastrous in a country with a very impoverished health system.

More contamination than in official reports

The measures taken by the city of Moscow were then often taken in other regions of the country, with a few days delay. In addition to his functions as mayor, Mr. Sobianine holds the post of head of the working group set up by the Kremlin. It was he who, on March 24, warned Mr. Putin that the number of infections was “Significantly higher” that the official reports and that the coronavirus was now “A serious matter” in Russia.

In the aftermath, the Russian president resolved to announce the postponement of a vote scheduled for April 22 on a reform of the Constitution and measures to support the economy. Putin had also announced that the week of March 30 would be idle in the country, “With salary maintenance”. The president had urged the Russians to stay at home, but without mentioning quarantine.

The city of Moscow had, however, immediately followed these announcements by closing the parks and the cafes of the capital, as well as most of the shops, but that did not dissuade many Muscovites from taking advantage of this sunny weekend to stroll . The Orthodox Church has been more than reluctant to comply with the presidential instruction.

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It was apparently in reaction to this flippancy that additional decisions were made by the capital’s city hall. The retaliatory measures against possible offenders, on the other hand, are unclear, and several voices are already pointing out that the mayor is not justified in taking such measures without declaring a state of emergency.

The town hall only evokes a “Intelligent surveillance system” to verify the application of containment. This reference recalls the use that has been made of the facial recognition system (more than 100,000 cameras in Moscow) to monitor people returning from abroad and placed in quarantine. The Meduza website cites the possible establishment of a system assigning a QR code to each inhabitant of the city, listing his place of life and his right to go out.

For several days, these are mainly the important troop movements of the National Guard in town that were noticed by Muscovites.

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