Moscow to relax some restrictions as daily Russian COVID-19 cases ease

·2-min read
The outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Moscow

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Moscow will relax some COVID-19 restrictions from Friday, including fully reopening colleges and specialist education institutions, the mayor of the Russian capital said on Thursday.

The number of daily new cases has started to fall in Russia, which launched a voluntary vaccination programme with the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine last month. It has resisted imposing a strict new lockdown, relying instead on targeted measures.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said new daily cases were considerably lower than at the end of December and that a tangible drop in daily hospital admissions to 1,200-1,300 people from 1,500-1,800 had made him cautiously optimistic.

"Vaccination rates have significantly increased. Over 220,000 Muscovites have already received reliable protection from the virus," Sobyanin wrote on his website.

"In this situation, we can allow ourselves to considerably soften existing restrictions."

State-run universities will continue to operate with distanced learning, but colleges and specialist institutions can reopen fully from Friday, Sobyanin said.

Theatres, cinemas and concert halls will be allowed to increase capacity to 50%, as will museums, libraries and stadiums for sports events.

Restrictions that will remain include bars and restaurants having to close early, the wearing of medical masks in shops and on public transport, and businesses having to limit the number of staff in offices to 30%.

Russia has registered two COVID-19 vaccines and plans to register a third on Feb. 16.

Russia reported 21,887 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, including 3,458 in Moscow, taking the total to 3,655,839 since the pandemic began, the world's fourth-highest tally.

The nationwide death toll stands at 67,832.

(Reporting Maxim Rodionov and Alexander Marrow; additional reporting by Gleb Stolyarov; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Timothy Heritage)