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Avoiding QR-code chaos Tatarstan becomes the first Russian region to introduce vaccine passport requirements for accessing public transportation

Source: Meduza
Egor Aliev / TASS / Scanpix / LETA

On Monday, November 22, Tatarstan became the first Russian region to require commuters to present QR codes documenting either vaccination against COVID-19 or a past diagnosis in order to access public transportation. And although local authorities tried to spread the word about the new rules ahead of time there was still some confusion. 

In the regional capital, Kazan, which is home to around 1.3 million people, huge crowds gathered at some bus stops as drivers and conductors checked QR codes before letting passengers on board. 

Tatar-Info

On other routes, passengers’ QR codes were checked after they got on the bus. Some conductors found that at times, their scanners didn’t work properly. 

Kazanskie Vedomosti

In some cases, passengers were denied access to public transport because they presented paper vaccination certificates, rather than QR codes.

As of 11:30 a.m. local time, 786 people had been kicked off trams and trolleybuses, reported Metroelektrotrans, the company that handles electric public transport in Kazan. “Two passengers were taken away by police,” Metroelektrotrans wrote on Telegram, adding that 18 others “didn’t wait” for police officers and disembarked of their own accord. 

QR codes were also checked at the entrances to subway stations. A few hours after the new rules came into effect, Metroelektrotrans reported that three passengers had been handed over to the police, 126 people had tried to access the subway without QR codes, and more than a dozen others presented expired or invalid codes. “Ninety-six passengers tried to get through using certificates of vaccination with the first component and four people with two vaccinations, but without QR-codes,” Metroelektrorans added. 

Meanwhile, taxi prices increased several fold — in some cases, costing up to 1,000 rubles ($13) for a short ride. Car-share services had no available vehicles, and ride-share groups on Telegram saw a spike in popularity

That said, Metroelektrotrans reported that despite a few hiccups here and there, long lines at subway stations were avoided, and trams and trolleybuses ran on schedule. The company also announced plans to hire 44 more people to check QR codes on public transit. 

In turn, the local Association of Motor Transport Enterprises emphasized that public transport providers didn’t make the decision to introduce the QR-code prerequisite, pointing out that they are simply fulfilling an order from the regional government. The association also urged commuters to “behave correctly and not take [their] anger out on conductors and public transport workers.”

“Of course, such decision can’t be implemented without certain problems in the initial stage, but we hope this situation will level out soon, and, most importantly, that all of this will serve the cause of ensuring the safety and health of people, because this is the sole objective pursued against the backdrop of the pandemic,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday, when asked about the new rules of accessing public transport in Tatarstan.

At the same time, Peskov stressed that the regional authorities made the decision to introduce the QR-code prerequisite, adding that the federal center only delegated the relevant authority. 

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