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Muscovites will soon need QR-codes to leave their homes Russia’s capital imposes self-isolation in a desperate attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus

Source: Meduza
Sergey Kiselyov / “Moskva” News Agency

Officials in Moscow and the Moscow region have ordered all local residents to self-isolate. People can only leave their homes now to visit the nearest store.

On his website, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin announced on Sunday, March 29, new revisions to his March 5 executive order imposing restrictions on movement within the city to curb the spread of coronavirus. Muscovites are now allowed to leave their homes only for the following reasons:

  • Seeking medical assistance or help for some other life-threatening emergency
  • Going to work
  • Shopping at the nearest open store or pharmacy
  • Walking pets within 100 meters (109 yards) of their homes
  • Disposing of garbage

In the city, the new restrictions take effect indefinitely on Monday, March 30. 

Sobyanin’s office says the stricter measures are necessary to slow the growth of serious coronavirus cases, in order to prevent the healthcare system from being overwhelmed. A source with ties to Moscow’s coronavirus task force says city officials resorted to imposed self-isolation after witnessing the steady growth of confirmed coronavirus cases and the large numbers of locals who decided to treat the upcoming non-work week declared by President Putin as an opportunity to vacation.

“The measures introduced today are absolutely necessary, but the effectiveness of these measures to slow the spread of the infection depends on each of us. Take care of yourself and your loved ones. Please stay home,” said Moscow’s mayor. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists that Sobyanin has the Putin administration’s support. Later on Sunday evening, Moscow regional officials announced that they are imposing the same restrictions.

Soon you’ll need a special permit to leave your home. Moscow is developing a “smart control system.”

Mayor Sobyanin says the city will issue special permits to residents in the coming days. People will need these permits to leave their homes. Moscow officials say they will use a “smart control system” to coordinate the city’s self-isolation. This system won’t be ready, however, for another week. “Gradually but steadily we will tighten the control that is necessary in this situation,” says Sobyanin.

Meduza’s source with links to the city’s coronavirus task force says the “smart control system” mentioned by Sobyanin will require every resident in Moscow to register at the mayor’s office’s website and state where they actually live (as opposed to individuals' officially registered home addresses). The system will then generate a unique QR-code for each person and these codes will function as an individual’s permit to leave their home. People will need to present these QR-codes to police officers upon request.

Mayor Sobyanin also stated that the new restrictions on movement will not apply to those who hold special passes, which city officials will issue as needed. Meduza’s sources say only doctors and medics have received these passes, so far. Another source told Meduza that the police will likely patrol the city’s streets to enforce the self-isolation order, but the authorities apparently haven’t yet finalized this policy.

Officials haven’t yet clarified what fines they will impose on those who violate the new restrictions. Under current laws, people face fines as high as 500 rubles ($6.35) for violating the city’s sanitary and epidemiological safety. On March 26, the federal government proposed revisions to Russia’s Administrative Procedural Code that would raise the penalties on breaking quarantine to 300,000 rubles ($3,800) for individuals and 1 million rubles ($12,700) for enterprises. 

Leonid Solovyov, a lawyer for the “Agora” human rights group, told Meduza that Russian law doesn’t establish any liability for violating the mayor’s new executive orders. “You can’t require citizens to stay at home and not go outside, withdrawing their freedom of movement. It’s an inalienable constitutional right that bypasses statutory procedures. You can only prohibit citizens’ movements after declaring a state of emergency,” argues Solovyov.

The Agora attorney says only a presidential order upheld by the Federation Council is capable of declaring a state of emergency. After that, quarantine measures could be implemented nationwide. “In this case, however, that wasn’t done, and the mayor — as the city’s top official — is bypassing all the procedures and doing what supposedly requires people to abide by these new restrictions. The legal nature of [Sobyanin’s] executive order is that it’s a public appeal, not an obligation,” says Solovyov, calling the measures in Moscow “a rehearsal for a state of emergency.”

Moscow isn’t being sealed off

In his address, Sobyanin emphasized that people are not prohibited from entering or leaving the city. “What we’re saying is that you can’t move around the city without good reason,” he explained.

Beginning on March 30, Muscovites will also be required to observe social distancing, maintaining 1.5 meters (about 5 feet) from others at all times, with the exception of taxi rides. Stores, pharmacies, and other enterprises are now required to display special markings to facilitate social distancing and ensure that access and movement on their premises comply with Moscow’s new restrictions. 

The city will compensate residents who lose their jobs because of coronavirus

“Unfortunately, many Muscovites are obviously losing their jobs in the current difficult situation. To help these people, we’re rolling out a special set of assistance measures,” added Sobyanin. As a first step, City Hall will start paying 19,500 rubles ($250) in monthly unemployment checks to out-of-work local residents. These payments will begin automatically, with no need to apply. Outside the city, the regional officials say they will start paying 15,000 rubles ($190) a month to unemployed locals.

As an added incentive to comply with the new self-isolation measures, Mayor Sobyanin says everyone who stays home from March 28 to April 5 and doesn’t violate the city’s lockdown will get nine days added to their public transportation passes. Previously suspended student and school travel passes will be extended for at least a month after the city’s high alert status ends.

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Reporting by Pavel Merzlikin, Farida Rustamova, and Sasha Sulim

Translation by Kevin Rothrock

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