Saturday 1/16/21

Moscow to begin mass vaccinations against coronavirus this weekend

Russia reported on Thursday another single-day record of new coronavirus cases, 28,145.

Moscow will this weekend begin mass vaccinations against the novel coronavirus for at-risk individuals, particularly medical workers and teachers, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on Thursday.

"In the coming weeks, as large quantities of the vaccine arrive, this list will be expanded," Sobyanin said in a statement on his website.

Individuals were to begin making appointments for the mass vaccination drive from Friday, according to the statement. The vaccinations will begin on Saturday.

Russia's capital and largest city, Moscow, has been the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the country. Russia has recorded more than 2.3 million cases of the virus, the world's fourth-largest caseload.

Russia's state-developed Sputnik V vaccine, introduced in August, was the world's first to be approved by a government for widespread use against the coronavirus.

The vaccine, endorsed by officials while it was still undergoing clinical trials, has courted controversy among the international scientific community amid questions of whether it was sufficiently tested.

The vaccine's producer has said it has shown an efficacy rate above 90% without significant side effects. About 40,000 people were said to be participating in the trial run.

Russia reported on Thursday another single-day record of new coronavirus cases, 28,145, amid a surge in recent months, according to a federal monitoring service that provides daily statistics.

Restrictions tightened for holiday

Russia's two largest cities, Moscow and St Petersburg, have been toughening restrictions intended to prevent the spread of the virus during the holiday season.

"We are lowering the city's attractiveness to tourists," St Petersburg Vice Governor Yevgeny Yelin said in comments carried by the Russian news agency Interfax on Thursday.

St Petersburg's historic city center with its picturesque canals have made it a popular domestic tourist destination for New Year, Russia's most widely celebrated holiday, a legacy of the secular Soviet Union.

St Petersburg has ordered restaurants and bars to close by 7 pm from 25 to 29 December, and close completely from 30 December to 3 January, Interfax reported, citing the city's administration.

Russia's largest city and capital, Moscow, has ordered restaurants and bars to close by 11 pm and advised residents to avoid going to large public events. Masks must be worn in all crowded public areas.

Sobyanin announced on Wednesday that even outdoor ice-skating rinks in Moscow would have to comply with precautions on preventing large crowds.