Hot topics | Coronavirus pandemic

As COVID-19 cases surpass previous records, Russian regions introduce QR codes for entry to public places

As COVID-19 cases surpass previous records, Russian regions introduce QR codes for entry to public places

Many Russian provinces on Monday announced plans to restrict access to cafes, museums, and other public places only to those who have recently recovered from COVID-19, have proof of vaccination with a Russian vaccine, or have gotten dummy coronavirus tests negative, as new cases in the country hit soaring levels.

Despite the state-driven vaccination campaign, the latest round of unpopular measures that limit freedoms in Russia comes as the number of daily COVID-19 infections has reached a new record-high of 34,325.

St. Petersburg, Russia's second-largest city of about 5 million people, said on Monday only people with a QR code indicating they meet the criteria will be allowed to visit cafes or restaurants from Dec. 1, joining many other regions that have imposed similar restrictions.

From Nov. 15, those who want to go to swimming pools, gyms, theatres and cinemas in St. Petersburg will be issued with a QR code.

Moscow was the first state to implement a QR code system earlier this year, under which borrowers were required to enter if they wanted to visit restaurants, gyms, beauty salons and hairdressers, cinemas or hotels. The system was shut down in mid-July.

The restrictions, which were intended to curb the COVID-19 surge, sparked a backlash from firms who claimed the measures threatened the closure of thousands of firms in the service industry. But they also boosted the number of vaccinations.

Russia was quick to develop and launch its Sputnik vaccine when the coronavirus epidemic struck last year, but its uptake has been slow, with many Russians citing distrust of the authorities and fear of new medical treatments.

As of mid-October, only about 48 million of 144 million Russians were fully vaccinated, with 51 million having received one shot.

Other regions in Russia that have already mandated or are planning to gradually introduce QR codes include Bashkiria, Nizhegorod region, Perm region of Russia, Saratov and Krasdonar regions, among many others.

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