Moscow fights Covid-19 surge with tighter controls and vaccine prize draw

Euros host city Saint Petersburg to impose more restrictions as vaccine take-up disappoints

Moscow has tightened pandemic-related restrictions and launched a prize draw to encourage residents to get vaccinated after a new surge of Covid-19 cases in the Russian capital.

The 7,704 new infections reported in Moscow on Sunday marked the biggest daily rise in the city since last December, and the 14,723 new cases recorded across Russia on the same day was the country's sharpest such climb in four months.

Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin told non-essential workers to stay at home this week in a bid to reduce virus transmission and ordered employers to return at least 30 per cent of non-vaccinated staff to remote working from next week.

The city’s bars, clubs and restaurants will be obliged to close at 11pm this week, food courts in shopping centres and children’s playgrounds will be shut and Moscow students will switch to distance-learning and sit exams online.


“Over the past week, the situation with the spread of coronavirus infection has deteriorated sharply... Moreover, there are patients not only from ‘traditional’ risk groups. Many middle-aged and even young people are seriously ill,” Mr Sobyanin said when announcing the new rules.

This week’s restrictions would help reduce the infection rate in Moscow only if “all of us show maximum caution”, he added.

“And of course we need to be more active about getting vaccinated. Until we really ensure mass vaccination, the city will be in a constant fever.”

Russia registered its Sputnik V vaccine as the world’s first anti-coronavirus shot last year –before clinical trials were complete – and launched a major campaign to promote it worldwide.

Widespread mistrust

Yet only about 12 per cent of Russia’s 144 million people have had at least one vaccine dose and Mr Sobyanin complained on May 21st that just 1.3 million of Moscow’s 12 million residents had received a shot; analysts say widespread mistrust of vaccines and of government information are behind the poor take-up.

Moscow announced on Sunday that every adult in the city who receives a first vaccine dose over the next month would be entered into a prize draw to win one of five cars that will be given away each week.

Officials in the Moscow region also unveiled a special raffle in which newly vaccinated people could win an apartment.

Saint Petersburg, a Euro 2020 host venue and Russia's worst coronavirus hotspot after the capital, announced that tighter anti-coronavirus rules will be introduced from Thursday, a day after Russia play Finland in the city.

Russia has sought to keep its economy open and imposed relatively few restrictions during a pandemic that has claimed 126,801 lives in the country, according to government figures.

However, a recent Reuters analysis of official statistics showed that Russia had recorded nearly 425,000 excess deaths from April 2020 to April 2021, suggesting its real Covid-19 death toll may be much higher.

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe