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World News

Russian COVID cases hit record as Moscow overnight closures begin

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia reported a record 21,983 new coronavirus infections on Friday, as Moscow prepared to close restaurants and bars overnight in an effort to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

People wearing protective face masks, used as a preventive measure against the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), wait in a queue outside a medical room at a local clinic in Omsk, Russia November 9, 2020. REUTERS/Alexey Malgavko/Files

Despite a recent surge, Russian authorities have resisted imposing lockdown restrictions as they did earlier this year, stressing instead the importance of hygiene, social distancing and bringing in targeted measures in certain regions.

Moscow, which reported 5,974 new cases in the past 24 hours, has ordered bars, restaurants and nightclubs to close between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. from Friday until mid-January. Officials warned of raids and fines for establishments that do not comply.

Some restaurant owners complained the measures hurt their businesses while doing little to prevent the virus from spreading.

“We are a bar after all, and most bars work at night,” said Svetlana Pivneva, manager of Parka Bar in central Moscow. “I do not fully understand the measures that are being taken, to be honest.”

The sprawling city of nearly 13 million has also moved university and college students to online learning and recommended that school children, already learning from home, keep their travel to a minimum.

Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has said he hoped Moscow would not have to impose any additional restrictions, but that it could do so if the situation worsened.

Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said on Friday that laboratories processing COVID-19 tests should work around the clock and that delays in providing results were unacceptable, TASS news agency reported.

Russian authorities say that the country has carried out more than 67.3 million tests since the start of the pandemic.

On Wednesday, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund said that the Sputnik V vaccine being developed in the country was 92% effective in protecting people from COVID-19 in interim trials.

The country’s coronavirus taskforce on Friday reported 411 deaths related to COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, raising the official death toll to 32,443.

With 1,880,551 infections since the start of the pandemic, Russia has the world’s fifth largest number of cases behind the United States, India, Brazil and France.

Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov, Maria Kiselyova and Evgenia Novozhenina; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Alexander Smith

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