Moscow mayor lifts restrictions, declaring the pandemic is ‘on the decline.’
The mayor of Moscow, Sergei S. Sobyanin, declared on Wednesday that the coronavirus pandemic was easing in the Russian capital, and abruptly lifted most of the remaining restrictions in place in the city, saying the focus must shift to strengthening the economy.
Although Mr. Sobyanin painted a promising picture of recovery, Russia has faced months of questions over the true scale of its outbreak and the efficacy of a Russian-developed vaccine. Last month, the state statistical agency in Moscow announced new figures indicating that the death toll from the coronavirus was more than three times as high as officially reported.
Russia has been hard hit by the pandemic, with a second wave that began in October bringing a spike in new infections and deaths, but the Kremlin expressed reluctance to impose a nationwide lockdown, even as cases surged.
In mid-January, infections seemed to level off as the country began administering the Russian-made Sputnik-V vaccine more widely. The average number of new cases confirmed weekly in Moscow was 2,500 in the past week, down from an average of 7,000 in December. A similar decline has been reported across the country.
The number of hospitalizations in Moscow dropped by 1,000, Mr. Sobyanin said, leaving more than half of the hospital beds dedicated to coronavirus care vacant for the first time since June. A nighttime curfew has be lifted, and the city will also allow all workers to return to their offices, abolishing the requirement for businesses to have at least 30 percent of employees working remotely.
“The pandemic is on the decline and under these circumstances, we must create conditions for the quickest recovery of the economy,” Mr. Sobyanin said in a statement published on his personal blog.
He added: “Friends, my warmest congratulations to you on our joint victory and one more step to a return to normal life in the wonderful city of Moscow!”
The Moscow government had already reopened museums, libraries and exhibition venues, and it promised to review the return of students to university campuses by the beginning of February.