Moscow — President Vladimir Putin eased Russia'scontrol measures Monday even as the country reported yet another day with a record number of new COVID-19 cases. Russia registered 11,656 new cases on Sunday, bringing the total number to 221,344. Moscow remains the focus of the with more than half of the known infections and deaths registered in the capital region.
In a televised statement, Putin announced an end to the six-week-old "non-working regime" which has kept Russians in jobs deemed non-essential at home. Those workers were permitted by the federal government to return to work from Tuesday. Putin left it up to regional authorities, however, to decide whether to lift or prolong their individual lockdown measures.
"The battle against the epidemic is not over," Putin said. He claimed the restrictions had helped save thousands of lives and slow down the outbreak in the country.
Authorities in Moscow have already extended self-isolation measures in the capital until the end of May, but have allowed industry and construction work to resume this week. Residents will also be required to wear face masks and gloves in public places.
Nationwide restrictions will remain in place for people over the age of 65, as wells as those with chronic illnesses, and all mass gatherings are still forbidden.
The World Health Organization's representative in Russia, Melita Vujnovic, said in a telephone interview with Bloomberg on Sunday that the country might be nearing the peak of its outbreak.
"The cases are still there but the growth rate is stabilizing," Vujnovic was quoted as saying. "We do hope, looking at the last few days, that it is on a plateau."
Russia's official death toll remains relatively low compared to other states with such a high number of cases, with just 2,009 deaths reported overall. Kremlin critics have raised doubts over the accuracy of the number, however.
Government officials attribute the high number of detected infections and relatively low number of deaths to Russia's large-scale testing program. Putin said Monday that the daily number of tests carried out would be doubled in May, to reach 300,000.
According to recently released government data, Moscow saw 20% more deaths this April compared to the average for the month. The Civil Registry Office's numbers revealed that 11,846 people died in Moscow last month, while the city's 10-year average for April is 9,866, the Moscow Times reported Monday.