By Stefan J. Bos
It isn't what many residents here wanted to hear. Moscow's restaurants, cafes, and bars only welcome patrons inside who have either been vaccinated or show a recent negative coronavirus test.
Those who can prove that they recovered from COVID-19 in the past six months can also join the club. Police have detained several demonstrators who were protesting against the COVID-19 vaccinations in central Moscow on Saturday.
But the mayor of this city of more than 12 million people, Sergei Sobyanin, says the measures are necessary: "The situation in Moscow remains extremely difficult."
He told reporters that over the past week, authorities registered new record highs of hospitalizations, intensive care unit patients
and coronavirus deaths.
Moscow's restaurants, cafes, and bars only welcome patrons inside who have either been vaccinated or show a recent negative coronavirus test. Those who can prove that they recovered from COVID-19 in the past six months can also join the club of the happy few.
CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE
On Monday, Russia's coronavirus task force reported 21,650 new infections and said 611 people died over the past day. Authorities say Moscow, the region around the capital and the country's second-largest city of St. Petersburg, account for most infections. Since the pandemic started, Russia has recorded nearly 5.5 million infection cases and about 134,000 deaths.
But on the streets of Moscow, restaurant owners struggle to explain the new regulations to their customers. "Today, from 9:00 to 12:00, 16 people visited us. Only two of them showed QR-codes needed to prove they are vaccinated. They were served in the room," said Valentina, manager of the Michelle restaurant. "But the other 12 people ate on the veranda. And two people refused to visit," she complained.
In one concession to desperate restaurant owners, city officials agreed that the QR codes aren't needed for the next two weeks at establishments with outdoor terraces.
But for Yayaz, Manager of John Bull Pub restaurant, this wasn't the summer he was hoping for. "All guests react differently. Guests call, they ask: 'Can I get to you today?' We say: 'Yes, of course, only with a QR code.' So far, maybe not everyone was vaccinated, so there are not very many visitors so far." He added that "20-30 people were passing by, but only two guests entered his establishment today."
It underscores skepticism about vaccines in Russia and apparent troubles with the distribution. Although Russia was the first country to announce a coronavirus vaccine, only about 14 percent of the population has received at least one shot of the jab.
Elsewhere in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, some countries are still struggling to vaccinate their people.
However, North Macedonia on Sunday received a shipment of 500,000 doses of Chinese Sinovac vaccines. That will allow authorities to continue mass immunization in the country, which has slowed over the past two weeks because of vaccine shortages.
North Macedonia also received more than 100,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines through the COVAX support system on Saturday. Nearly a quarter of the Balkan country's 2.1 million people have been vaccinated with at least one dose so far.
The small Balkan country had struggled earlier with vaccine shortages, and mass immunization began in early May after North Macedonia received 200,000 Sinopharm vaccines. Nearly 25 percent of the country's 2.1 million people have been vaccinated with at least one dose so far.
Yet, the COVID-19 pandemic in North Macedonia has drastically slowed down this month. Authorities even decided to ease almost all restrictions. For example, protective masks are mandatory only indoors. And officials removed a dreaded curfew by allowing bars and restaurants to organize weddings and other celebrations with 50 percent of standard capacity. At least for now.
Moscow imposing new restrictions as Coronavirus infections surge
By Stefan J. Bos