MOSCOW (Reuters) – Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin on Tuesday extended an upcoming school holiday by a week to limit the spread of the coronavirus, days after sources told Reuters that the capital’s hospitals had been told to free up hundreds of beds.
COVID-19 infections have been rising across Europe in the weeks since the start of the new academic year and some other countries have also considered extending October school holidays to try to slow the spread.
The Kremlin said last week it did not plan to impose severe lockdown restrictions despite a growing number of new cases of COVID-19, but Sobyanin advised anyone with chronic health problems or those older than 65 to stay home.
On Tuesday, Sobyanin said students would be off school from Oct. 5-18, and urged parents to keep their children at home.
“Today a significant proportion of the sick – who are often asymptomatic – are children,” Sobyanin said on his website.
“When they come home, they easily transmit the virus to adults and elderly family members who get much more sick.”
The upsurge in Moscow has escalated since Russia reopened schools on Sept. 1. The number of new daily infections has more than doubled compared to late August.
The rouble nosedived on Tuesday, hitting 93 against the euro and continuing its sharp downward trajectory from the previous two trading sessions. The falls were due to concern over the rising rate of infections as well as clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh just beyond Russia’s southern border.
With 1,167,805 cases, Russia has the world’s fourth highest number of infections. On Tuesday, the authorities said that 160 people had died from the virus in the last 24 hours, pushing the country’s official death toll to 20,545.
The energy ministry plans to ask nearly 20% of its staff to work from home from Oct. 1 in response to the growing number of coronavirus cases, deputy minister Anastasia Bondarenko said, after over 70% of its personnel was working remotely in March-July.
(Reporting by Maxim Rodionov and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; additional reporting by Anastasia Lyrchikova; Editing by Katya Golubkova and Philippa Fletcher)