Moscow reportedly preparing for complete COVID-19 quarantine, including closed city borders; city officials deny reports
The city of Moscow may soon enter a state of emergency that will include a complete transport shutdown and a ban on entering or exiting the city, Vedomosti reported. Several sources close to Moscow City Hall and the Russian federal government spoke with journalists about the planned shutdown, saying it may be instituted within the next two weeks or as soon as the end of this week.
Moscow Vice Mayor for Social Development Anastasia Rakova flatly denied that any such state of emergency is in the works, calling media reports “a lie.” However, both Moscow City Hall and the city’s coronavirus headquarters declined to comment to Vedomosti when contacted before the story’s publication. Moscow’s police headquarters and emergency services headquarters as well as the National Guard have not yet responded to the newspaper’s requests for comment. One law enforcement officer said that a state of emergency may be declared when the city’s number of confirmed cases reaches a certain number that is as yet “far away.”
According to Vedomosti’s sources, if a quarantine is announced, it will entail a closure of all non-essential businesses and activities, leaving only vital services, emergency operations, grocery stores, and pharmacies open to the public. A curfew will be instituted, with special permission required for citizens to go outside after hours. Public transport will be shut down.
A law enforcement officer told Vedomosti that all security agencies, including Russia’s police, its National Guard, and its Defense Ministry, have been preparing for a state of emergency of this kind. A source close to the federal government confirmed that security officers are now ready to undertake a citywide shutdown. Alyona Zelenovskaya, an attorney for the nationwide legal service Amulex, told Vedomosti that she expects administrative fines and penalties of up to 30 days in jail to be introduced for anyone who violates the state of emergency.
Vedomosti indicated that Moscow officials initially developed a plan in February to introduce a total quarantine gradually but that a sharp increase in confirmed patients may speed up the process. Moscow has reported 53 cases to date, including 20 that were confirmed on March 16. Multiple officials, including State Duma health committee member Alexey Kurinny, agreed that the actual number of individuals infected with the coronavirus in Moscow may be much higher than the reported figure.