MOSCOW (Reuters) – Muscovites returned to museums and restaurant terraces on Tuesday for the first time in more than two months as the Russian capital rolled back more coronavirus curbs despite still recording over 1,000 new infections daily.
Libraries and zoos in the city of nearly 13 million people were also reopening, albeit with limits on numbers.
Dentists were getting back to business too and sports events were allowed, though venues had 10% capacity limits.
Kremlin critics have accused the authorities of lifting restrictions too fast to pave the way for a nationwide vote on reforms that would allow President Vladimir Putin to run again for president twice after 2024 when his current term ends.
Voting will take place over a seven-day period, culminating on July 1. The Kremlin has denied decisions to ease curbs were politically motivated.
Moscow began to lift its lockdown last week, allowing residents to leave homes and use public transport and vehicles without restrictions.
City mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on Monday it was time to further ease restrictions because the pandemic was on the wane and pressure on the city’s health system was easing.
In central Moscow on Tuesday, restaurant owners were eagerly tidying up their terraces but remained wary about the impact on sales of having to serve fewer customers.
“The restaurant economy revolves around seats,” said Dmitry Nesterenko, general manager of Laduree Russia, a branch of the French luxury bakery.
A restaurant quarter near Moscow’s Belorusskaya train stations that caters for office workers was doing a brisk trade on Tuesday lunchtime with its terraces full of people eating and drinking in the sunshine.
Other terraces in the city were less full though, and some restaurants were still in the process of erecting wooden pavement terraces.
Moscow has been the worst-affected area in Russia, which has the third highest number of cases in the world with more than half a million infections.
Moscow has recorded 208,680 cases and 3,386 deaths, while the nation as a whole has registered 7,284 deaths – fewer than numerous other countries.
Critics are dubious about the accuracy of Russia’s mortality figures.
(Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov, Dmitry Madorsky and Anton Derbenev; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Andrew Cawthorne)