President Vladimir Putin on Monday declared an end to a partial economic shutdown across Russia due to the coronavirus pandemic, but he said that many restrictions will remain in place.
In a televised address to the nation, Putin said it will be up to regional governors in the far-flung country to determine what industrial plants could reopen starting Tuesday. He emphasized that it’s essential to preserve jobs and keep the economy running, provided that workers strictly observe sanitary norms.
“The nationwide nonworking regime is coming to an end,” a somber-looking Putin said. “Gradually, and very carefully, we are starting to ease the restrictions.”
Putin also said regional authorities should consider allowing people to take walks and exercise wherever and whenever possible. He emphasized that all mass gatherings will remain prohibited and noted that it’s essential for all Russians who are older than 65 or have chronic illnesses to continue staying home.
Since the outbreak began, Putin has given Russia's regions broad authority to determine their own coronavirus strategies, arguing that the situation in various localities differs widely. Kremlin critics have described that policy as an attempt to shift responsibility for the high number of infections and bruising economic damage from the outbreak.
Putin had ordered the economic shutdown in late March, although key industrial plants and some other sectors were allowed to continue operating. Most Russians have been ordered to stay home, except for shopping in nearby stores and pharmacies and visits to doctors.
Putin’s decision to ease the restrictions comes as Russia registered a daily record of over 11,600 new infections in the last 24 hours, more than half of them in Moscow. That has brought the national total to more than 221,000 cases — the world’s fourth-highest after the United States, Spain and Britain — including about 2,000 deaths.
Some observers say official statistics reflect just a fraction of the real numbers and pointed out that the actual death toll could be significantly higher. Unlike the United States, Italy and some other countries, the Russian totals don't include some of the deaths of those who tested positive for the coronavirus. Those with chronic illnesses who died are counted separately, even if they had the virus.