Russia's coronavirus measures include digitally tracking every move Moscow residents make

Russia rolls out QR code to battle COVID-19
Russia rolls out QR code to battle COVID-19 02:16

Rigid new rules in the Russian capital require Moscow's residents to let the government track their every move in and outside the city. It's part of Russia's effort to contain the coronavirus, as the country grapples with the third-most confirmed cases in the world. 

Russian officials have reported more than 353,000 COVID-19 cases — more than any other country except the U.S. and Brazil, and many critics including doctors, believe these figures drastically understate the truth.

At the start of the outbreak, ambulances lined up for hours outside Russian hospitals, waiting to deliver patients in need of critical care. Authorities managed to ramp up medical capacity, but in Moscow instituted a strict lockdown.

To enforce it, police patrol the streets of the capital, the worst-affected area in the country.

People wanting to leave or return to Moscow have to apply for permission. 

Journalist Mikhail Fishman, who had travelled into the countryside, explained how the system works to CBS News' Elizabeth Palmer. 

"in order to get home," he said "I will need a special pass.

The Russian government's "pass" comes in the form of a QR code that people download on their phones. 

To get the one, Fishman had to enter his personal details and the reason for his trip on a government website.

Anyone who wants to go more than 100 yards from home has to have one – whether they're traveling by car, on foot or even on the subway.

In effect, the bar code on the phone screen functions as a permission slip that can be checked by the police at any time. 

On the roads cameras track drivers, including Fishman, who may be stopped at checkpoints to verify they're sticking to approved routes. 

Many countries have turned to technology is this pandemic to track and trace people exposed to the coronavirus.  But Russia has gone several steps further with a Big Brother system that doesn't ask for individual cooperation, instead forces compliance.

It boils down to a lack of trust, said Fishman, between an authoritarian political regime and its people. 

"It's very hard [for] the government simply to ask to do something from the people, because people do not obey, because they do not trust their government," he said. 

The Russian government has promised to delete all the newly-collected data once normal life returns to Moscow, but by then it will have learned valuable lessons about technology's power to impose social control.