Russia has taken its most forceful step in its fight against the pandemic by ordering a national mask mandate as coronavirus cases surge.
Russia’s Rospotrebnadzor, a federal watchdog known as the Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing, published the order on Tuesday. The order dictates that face coverings must be worn on public transportation, in taxis, in elevators, and in any location where more than 50 people can gather. Details about the enforcement mechanism for the order have not been revealed, according to the New York Times.
The watchdog advised the governors of Russia’s regions to implement orders shuttering bars, restaurants, and entertainment venues at 11 p.m. each night in a further effort to stymie the spread of the contagion. CBS News reported that those without masks on would not be allowed inside such venues.
The move comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed last week not to reimplement a nationwide lockdown as it did earlier this year. The lockdown had a severe impact on the country’s economy. In May, Putin began easing the lockdown, even as cases were first peaking.
“Regarding the possibility of severe, total, restrictive measures, we aren’t planning to do this. The government doesn’t have any such plans,” Putin said.
On Friday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the coronavirus situation in Russia was “under control.”
“It is not easy, it is tense, but it is under control,” he said. Despite the remarks, COVID-19 infections continue to rise, with the country recording 16,550 new cases on Tuesday and a single-day record of 320 new deaths.
Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov entered self-quarantine on Tuesday after coming in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
Dozens of countries across the world have ordered various forms of mask mandates since the pandemic began, with certain places enforcing stiff penalties to those who don’t comply. In Kenya, officials said in April that anyone without a mask could face up to six months in jail, a $200 fine, or both.
In the United States, the issue of a national mask mandate has become very political, with President Trump vowing not to institute one. His Democratic rival Joe Biden has said that if he is elected, he will “go to every governor” and urge mandates, “and if they refuse, I’ll go to the mayors and county executives and get local masking requirements in place nationwide.” He also said that he would mandate masks in all federal buildings.
A poll released in July found that 53% of registered voters surveyed “strongly” support states issuing orders that require face masks to be worn in public under penalty of fine or jail time. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said last week that the U.S. might want to consider mandates for masks if people don’t start wearing face coverings.
Russia has the fourth-most number of infections worldwide, with more than 1.5 million recorded since the pandemic began. Additionally, a total of 26,409 people have died, according to a count by Johns Hopkins University.