‘Non-working week’ declared in Moscow as COVID-19 cases jump

The mayor of Moscow has announced a “non-working” week in the Russian capital, with non-essential workers told to stay home as coronavirus cases hit a six-month high.

Sergei Sobyanin’s decision on Saturday marked a change of tone for officials in Russia, where President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly insisted that the country has handled the pandemic better than most.

“During the past week the situation with the spread of the coronavirus infection has sharply deteriorated,” Sobyanin said on his website as the city registered 6,701 daily infections, the highest number since December last year. He added that “thousands” of hospital beds have been repurposed for coronavirus patients.

“We cannot not react to such a situation,” he said. “To stop the growth of infections and to save people’s lives, today I signed a decree providing for non-working days between June 15-19.”

The order affects all employees in Moscow, a city of 12 million, except for essential workers. Non-essential workers are not required to work from home during the period, but will still retain their salaries.

Together with the weekends and a public holiday on June 14, it means most Moscow workers will not return to their offices until June 20.

Sobyanin also announced the closure of food courts and playgrounds while restaurants, bars and clubs will be banned from serving customers between 23:00 and 06:00.

The mayor also called on employers to transfer at least 30 percent of non-vaccinated employees to working from home after the week-long shutdown.

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