MOSCOW (Reuters) - Residents of Moscow began to resume their normal routines on Tuesday as a lockdown designed to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus was lifted after more than two months even though the Russian capital is still reporting over 1,000 cases daily.
Moscow’s nearly 13 million residents are now free to go outside when they want, use public transport and travel across the city in their own vehicles without any restrictions or digital passes.
“We’re free now, you can walk around as long as you wear a mask,” said Pavel, a pensioner, who was taking some morning exercise without a mask.
“We’ll need to be careful, we will be careful.”
Sergei Sobyanin, Moscow’s mayor, announced the easing on Monday, saying the pandemic was receding in the city and that he would start rolling back restrictions on Tuesday, with others due to be scrapped later this month.
Sobyanin’s critics accuse him of rushing to ease the lockdown in time to allow a Red Square military parade later this month and a July 1 nationwide vote that could extend President Vladimir Putin’s rule until 2036.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters he did not think the decision to lift Moscow’s lockdown was hasty because some restrictions would remain in place until later in June.
Sobyanin has cited a steady fall in the number of coronavirus cases in recent weeks, an easing of strains on the health system and Muscovites’ responsible behaviour as reasons for lifting the lockdown.
Most commuters wore masks on Tuesday while using Moscow’s metro system, which was still less busy than before the outbreak.
Authorities said on Tuesday they had recorded 8,595 new nationwide cases in the last 24 hours, pushing Russia’s tally to 485,253, the third highest in the world. Russia has recorded 6,142 deaths from the virus.
Moscow itself reported 1,572 new cases on Tuesday.
Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov, Shamil Zhumatov and Gennady Novik; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Gareth Jones