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Not a personal matter anymore As Putin meets Biden in Geneva, Moscow introduces a sweeping mandatory vaccination campaign against COVID-19

Source: Meduza
Evgeny Sinitsyn / Xinhua / Zuma / Scanpix / LETA

Moments before Vladimir Putin arrived in Geneva for a presidential summit with Joe Biden that has dominated Russian and international news coverage all week, officials in Moscow and the Moscow region announced a sweeping mandatory vaccination campaign for persons working in the public and service sectors. Over the past two weeks, the spread of the coronavirus in Russia has spiked again, rising from 9,000 daily cases to 14,000 new infections. In this span of time, the number of new cases in Moscow has more than doubled, forcing the city to announce another “non-working week” from June 12 to 20, returning restrictions on eateries. Despite these measures, Mayor Sobyanin has insisted that the capital will not impose another lockdown. Meduza breaks down Moscow’s controversial new vaccine program.

Anyone employed in the following industries is now required to get vaccinated against COVID-19, which is again ravaging Russia’s capital:

  • Trade,
  • Gyms and beauty salons,
  • Foodservice,
  • Household services like laundromats and dry cleaners,
  • Public transportation and taxis,
  • Education, healthcare, and social work,
  • Housing and utilities,
  • Mass sporting events,
  • Cultural events (including museums and libraries), and
  • Entertainment events.

The new vaccination requirements also extend to all city officials and municipal employees.

Supervisors in the industries above have been ordered to ensure that at least 60 percent of their staff receive a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine before July 15. The same percentage of the workforce is required to be fully vaccinated by August 15. This is how Moscow plans to achieve near herd immunity against the coronavirus before the end of the summer. The new policy does make exceptions for individuals with certain pre-existing medical conditions.

In a statement explaining the new policy, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin described vaccination as a personal decision but said this is true “only as long as you stay home or in the countryside”:

When you go out into public places and come into contact with other people, you willingly or unwillingly become an accomplice in the epidemiological process — a link in the chain of this dangerous virus’s spread. Moreover, if you work at an organization that serves an indefinite number of people, then it’s absolutely not a personal matter in a pandemic situation, whatever personal protective equipment you’re using.

Alexey Nemeryuk, the head of Moscow’s Trade and Services Department, explained on Wednesday that city officials discussed mandatory vaccinations with business leaders in advance. Many entrepreneurs “suggested this solution themselves,” Nemeryuk said.

A source in the federal government told the news agency Interfax that the Kremlin still isn’t planning a nationwide mandatory vaccination program. “This issue will be decided based on the epidemiological situation in each region,” the source said. President Putin’s spokesman, meanwhile, denies that Moscow’s new policy qualifies as a “mandatory” program at all.

Text by Grigory Levchenko

Translation by Kevin Rothrock

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