Moscow's fight: How Russia's capital resists COVID-19

Maria Selezneva | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Moscow faced the coronavirus crisis a little bit later than other cities in Europe. Nevertheless, as from the beginning of the global outbreak, our government took it seriously. Russia closed its 4200-kilometre-long border with China as early as the end of January to prevent the virus from spreading in our vast country. When Italy was strongly hit but the Covid-19 outbreak, we did not hesitate to help them already in the early days by sending over doctors and medical supplies. Over time, the situation unfolded progressively, and the virus arrived in Moscow as well. However, thanks to the well-organized self-isolation and other precautious measures that were put in place, the number of fatal cases in Moscow is far lower than in most European cities. Russia's capital seems to resist well COVID-19. A consolidated Moscow's fight helps to avoid peak loads for hospitals and medical personnel, and it preserves people's health.

How it started

© istock/Yury Karamanenko

Information about the COVID-19 started spreading in media in January. It was all about Wuhan, and the strict quarantine regime this city in China launched. People who live in Moscow were quite sceptical about the whole thing because back then, everyone thought it was something located very far away - the quarantine started, the virus was localized, and soon everything would be alright. It was something curious to observe, but almost no one thought it to be a real treat, even taking into account the fact Russia has a huge land border with China. Meanwhile, real-time news about quarantined ships in different parts of the world was read by many as a Hollywood movie script. People still had their vacations in different countries, including Asian ones, because they did not want to lose their money paid for flight tickets and hotels. 

There was a wake-up call in February when suddenly Italy started suffering from this novel coronavirus infection. It was quite disturbing as Italy is much closer to Moscow and is frequently visited by Russian tourists. People started thinking about the COVID-19 as of a serious threat they can suffer from too, yet many were still sceptical, stating it is just another media buzz, and this infection is just seasonal, like other respiratory diseases, for example, flu. 

Nevertheless, some actions were already taken. For instance, in offices, sanitizers had appeared. Also, as the temperature measurement seemed to be the main mean to identify the COVID-19 contamination easily, it was decided to measure the temperature in Moscow's metro selectively.

Pandemic outbreak

© istock/Ivan Novikov-Dvinsky

So-called ‘gender holidays’ (February 23 and March 8, known as 'Men’s Day' and 'Women’s Day', respectively) in Russia were just normal. In Moscow, there was good weather then, and many started walking around the city, spending their time in cafés, living a normal life. Suddenly, March 11 became the day the pandemic had was announced, so it was a starting point for all the measures taken afterwards.

Businesses started asking their employees to work remotely - at least those who were able to do it. Not every company was ready for such a step, depending on specifics, security reasons, and so on. Thus, it resulted in the fact that even after the WHO announced the pandemic outbreak, many people still had to work at the office. Besides, people who just returned from elsewhere other than Russia had to spend two weeks fully quarantined at home, together with their family members or roommates, which meant a potential incubation period. Also, elderly people who form a very sensitive risk group were asked to stay at home, too. Those who live alone were meant to be helped by volunteers. 

On March 25, in order to prevent further contamination, it was announced that the week starting from March 30, and up to April 5 will be a week-off. It meant all public places, such as shopping malls, parks, markets, etc., should be closed, and only essential ones (pharmacies, grocery stores) were meant to stay open. Meanwhile, eateries decided to keep their businesses on - via delivery services. Some major ones are functioning in Moscow, and, although the workload is quite high, they do pretty well, almost not late to deliver the stuff to buyers. 

What happens now

© istock/Yury Karamanenko

As in many other countries, the COVID-19 pandemic in Russia took its toll, and the number of those infected started growing. Many of them are from Moscow because it is a megapolis with a high density of population. However, the situation is under control, thanks to the self-isolation period followed by many people. Measures regarding the closure of all public places were prolonged until the end of April. It is allowed to visit the nearest grocery store, a pharmacy, or a phone shop (communication is considered to be essential now). If someone still needs to go to work, a special electronic pass via the Internet should be issued. Also, it is required when a person has to use public transport, such as metro, bus, or taxi. 

After a period of doubt, sadness, and unfamiliarity with such a  way of living, people started to value their time, watch their figure, do their hobby and save money by cooking at home. The weather in Moscow is far from summer-like, sometimes it snows, and there is even a hail outside. So for many, this is a good reason not to leave their homes. The good thing is - much fewer cars are going through the city, so the air and the water became cleaner, and, as a matter of fact, many birds started gathering near the ponds. It is time when everyone feels May is coming, and, although there will be no Victory Day parade in Moscow this year, people understand the measures taken will help to save lives.

© istock/Dmitry Bezrukov

One of the most awkward things now is that places such as the Red Square with its St. Basil's CathedralNikolskaya Street, or Tsaritsyno Park, are unusually empty now. Staying at home and positive thinking will help Russia not only to keep resisting COVID-19 but also to overcome all difficulties Moscow and other cities are facing in this fight against the virus. Soon, it will be possible again to take photos of the city from a boat, see Moscow from a birds-eye perspective, and enjoy walking around Arma Creative Quarter, or Moscow boulevards. This is not forever!

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