Moscow tightens coronavirus rules

By Maria Kiselyova
FILE PHOTO: Women with protective masks walk across Red Square in Moscow

By Maria Kiselyova

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Moscow authorities will on Monday impose tighter restrictions on residents in an attempt to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said.

Muscovites will only be allowed to go out to buy food or medicines at their nearest shop, get urgent medical treatment, walk the dog or take out the bins.

Those needing to go to work will also be allowed to leave their flats, and authorities will introduce a system of passes in the coming days.

"Gradually but steadily, we will keep tightening control as needed in this situation," Sobyanin said on his website.

Russia has been relatively lightly hit so far, with nine deaths and 1,534 cases, but it recorded 270 new infections in the past day.

Earlier on Sunday, Sobyanin said the coronavirus outbreak had entered a new phase as the number of cases exceeded 1,000 in the capital and complained that many residents took recommendations to stay home very lightly.

The head of Russia's Orthodox Church exhorted believers to pray at home and urged people to adhere strictly to authorities' instructions "before someone dies in our families".

"Refrain from visiting churches," Russian news agency RIA cited Patriarch Kirill as saying, even though Orthodox services went ahead, including one led by him.

About 60% of Russia's 144 million people consider themselves Orthodox Christians, but fewer were worshipping in churches on Sunday and some were wearing masks, according to media reports.

Russia has halted international flights, closed borders, announced a non-working week from this weekend, and closed shops and entertainment venues in Moscow and some other regions.

Sobyanin said many Muscovites were still going out. At least 52,000 people took walks in city parks on Saturday, and many elderly people made long trips on public transport, Sobyanin said.

"The situation with the spread of coronavirus has entered a new phase," Sobyanin wrote. "An example of miserable Italian and Spanish cities, even New York, where tens and hundreds of people die every day, is in front of everyone's eyes."


(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Additional reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Gleb Stolyarov; Editing by Louise Heavens, Andrew Cawthorne and Giles Elgood)