Russia at risk of spike in Covid-19 cases during May holidays

Two police officers patrol an almost empty Red Square in Moscow on April 20. (AP pic)

MOSCOW: Russia could experience a spike in cases of the novel coronavirus if people flout lockdown measures during public holidays scheduled for early May, a top health official said on Sunday.

The number of coronavirus cases in Russia began rising sharply this month, reaching more than 80,000 on Sunday after it recorded a record 6,361 new cases in the past day.

Anna Popova, head of Russia’s consumer health watchdog, said the country had so far avoided a sharp spike in cases and could continue doing so “if only we do not give up during the holidays.”

“That is the biggest risk today,” Popova said in an interview on state television, Russian news agencies reported.

Russia has only a handful of working days between May 1 and May 11 this year, with back-to-back long weekends for the Labour Day and Victory Day state holidays. Many Russians typically take the entire period off work for travel or family holidays.

Russia, which has so far recorded 747 coronavirus-related deaths, has declared lockdowns across the country, including in the capital Moscow, the area worst-affected by the virus.

Muscovites are only allowed to go out only to buy food or medicines at their nearest shop, get urgent medical treatment, walk their dog, or take out the trash. They must apply for a digital permit for any other movements across the city.

Popova urged Russians to remain home during the holidays in a bid to help stem contagion.

“We owe it to ourselves and our loved ones,” she said.

President Vladimir Putin announced this month that Russia would postpone its May 9 celebrations, including a massive military parade across Red Square to mark 75 years since the Soviet victory in World War Two.

Next week Putin will address the measures needed to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Sunday, Russian news agencies reported.