Moscow lifts lockdown restrictions amid virus concerns

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A dog looks out of the car window as people enjoy a warm weather at Patriarch Ponds in Moscow, Russia, Monday, June 8, 2020. The Russian capital is ending a tight lockdown that has been in place for more than two months, citing a slowdown in the coronavirus outbreak. Moscow's mayor said that starting Tuesday residents will no longer be required to obtain electronic passes for travel and can walk, use public transport and drive without any restrictions. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

Moscow emerged from a strict lockdown Tuesday with the city government citing a slowdown in the coronavirus outbreak and critics expressing concerns over the potential for a new wave of infections in the Russian capital.

As of Tuesday, Moscow residents are no longer required to stay at home or obtain electronic passes for traveling around the city, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said Monday. All restrictions on taking walks, using public transportation or driving have been lifted as well.

The sudden ending of restrictions imposed in late March comes weeks before a nationwide vote on a constitutional change that would allow President Vladimir Putin to stay in power until 2036 and was condemned by Kremlin critics as premature and politically motivated.

The lifted lockdown measures not only permitted Moscow residents to move about, but allowed beauty parlors to reopen Tuesday. Outdoor terraces of cafes and restaurants, as well as museums and dental clinics, are set to open on June 16. Kindergartens, gyms and indoor spaces of cafes and restaurants will be allowed to operate starting June 23.

“The fight isn't over yet,” Sobyanin said in a video address Monday. “Nevertheless, I would like to congratulate you on our common victory and a big step towards returning to a full-fledged life.”

Under the lockdown the city government imposed in late March, all nonessential businesses were closed and residents were only allowed to go out to shop at nearby stores and pharmacies, visit doctors and walk their dogs. Sobyanin had since eased some of the restrictions, reopening industrial plants and construction sites in mid-May and non-food retailers June 1.

Two weeks ago, the mayor extended Moscow's stay-at-home order until June 14 and said in an interview that it was too early to talk about reopening hair salons, gyms and other facilities at a time when city health officials were registering 2,000-3,000 new virus cases a day.

Opposition activists linked Sobyanin's decision to ease the terms of the lockdown to the upcoming plebiscite on constitutional amendments proposed by Putin. The vote is scheduled for July 1, and early voting starts on June 25.