Moscow tightens quarantine with digital passes after spike in cases

Moscow, Apr 15 (efe-epa).- Moscow tightened its quarantine controls with digital travel passes on Wednesday after a spike in coronavirus cases in the city.

Following China’s example, authorities in the Russian capital have introduced electronic permits for citizens who need to travel around the city.

Around 2.3 million QR codes have been issued which Muscovites can request if they need to go to work, a medical appointment or make another essential journey.

Mayor Sergey Sobyanin said last week when he announced the measures that the situation in the city had worsened.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday that the situation had been caused by residents failing to comply with directions from authorities to stay inside their homes and only go out for authorised reasons.

Officials reported 1,774 new cases in Moscow on Wednesday, putting the city’s total at 14,776.

The capital represents more than 60 per cent of Russia’s infections, which reached a new high on Wednesday with 3,388 fresh cases, bringing the national total to 24,490.

There have been 196 deaths in Moscow, out of a total of 198 across Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that the situation was deteriorating and asked residents to prepare for all scenarios.

Deputy prime minister Tatyana Golikova said on Monday that there would be an increase of cases in Moscow this week and the beginning of next week before the infection curve begins to flatten.

The implementation of the new measures in Moscow, home to 13 million people, was not without initial problems.

Long traffic jams, some stretching five kilometres, were seen on the roads leading into the city and some metro stations were packed with travellers as they waited for police to check their passes and ID.

Photographs posted on social media show people, many without masks, crowding in together at station entrances.

Sobyanin said in a tweet that metro station queues were “critical” and asked police to avoid creating “massive crowds” while carrying out checks.

The queues dissipated after morning rush hour and the number of passengers was noticeably lower than previous days.

The implementation of the digital passes has also generated criticism among human rights organisations, activists and political opposition.

Moscow already has thousands of surveillance cameras which could be used to help monitor compliance with the quarantine.

Opposition activist Alexei Navalny took to Twitter to question why automated controls could not have been thought of before.

Russian human rights group Agora branded the measure “illegal” and said on its Telegram channel that “certain restrictions on rights and freedoms can only be established in a state of emergency with a mandatory indication of limits and duration”.

Sobyanin said personal data collected for the QR codes will be done in accordance with the law and that the information will be destroyed when the system ends. EFE-EPA

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