Russian capital lifts dining restrictions

·2-min read

Authorities in Moscow have cancelled their order that restaurants only admit customers who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, recovered from the virus or have had a recent negative test.

The softening of restrictions in the Russian capital reflects their devastating impact on restaurant owners, who pleaded with city officials for weeks to rescind them.

The decision comes even as Moscow is still experiencing a surge in infections and Russia overall registered a new daily record of coronavirus deaths on Friday.

The move announced by Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin takes effect on Monday.

It retracts the measure that has been in place since late June.

Customers have been required to visit a Russian government website and get a QR code - a digital pattern designed to be read by a scanner - as proof of their health status.

The restrictions were loudly criticised by restaurant owners, who were still struggling to recover from the damage caused by the pandemic.

Some desperate owners started closing their restaurants and cafes as the number of customers dropped sharply.

Outdoor terraces were allowed to operate without restrictions but many restaurants and cafes did not have room to set them up on Moscow's narrow sidewalks.

Sobyanin said the city reversed the decision because the pace of contagion has slowed.

Starting on Monday, Moscow restaurants and clubs will be able to open at night and hold parties and concerts.

He noted, however, that "we must understand that we are still in the risk zone, the contagion is continuing and we need to observe sanitary demands and conduct mass vaccination".

Some Russian media speculated the decision to abruptly lift the restrictions in Moscow reflected authorities' concerns that the tough measures could fuel discontent and further erode support for the main Kremlin party, United Russia, in September's parliamentary election.

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