Comment: UPDATE 30 March 2020

24 hours later, they're extending it to the whole of Russia.

Govts have apparently been instructed to 'let people down gradually, so as not to shock them too much at once'.

© Sputnik / Anton Denisov
Moscow, where the number of coronavirus cases now exceeds 1,000, has introduced a tough self-isolation regime. From Monday, residents of the Russian capital will be only allowed to leave their homes in cases of absolute necessity.

Under the new rules, Muscovites can go outside if they need urgent medical help or to purchase food or medicine, for which they must use their nearest stores. They may also throw out trash and pet owners will be permitted to walk animals, inside a radius of 100 metres from their buildings.

The decree, issued by Mayor Sergey Sobyanin, applies to all age groups. People can continue to go to work, if they must, and enter or leave the capital. Moscow is Europe's largest city, with a population of over 13 million. The surrounding Moscow region, which has introduced similar restrictions, is home to another 7.5 million, meaning the metropolitan area dwarfs the likes of London and Paris.

The measures will be enforced by a special pass scheme. The Mayor's statement mentions a "smart control system," to be introduced "in the coming days," after which residents won't be allowed to leave their homes without permits. According to reports, this may be managed by camera recognition or mobile phone tracking.

"We'll be tightening the controls necessary for the current situation gradually, but steadily... movement in the city [has] decreased by two-thirds [since initial shutdown measures were applied]," Sobyanin's statement noted. "This is very good, although it is obvious that not everyone is listening." Russian media has carried stories of people holding barbecues and other gatherings over the weekend, ignoring pleas to stay at home.

The Mayor said he felt forced to introduce stricter controls because "the extremely negative turn of events that we see in the largest cities of Europe and the US causes great concern for the life and health of our citizens."

Moscow authorities are also promoting social distancing, saying that people should maintain a distance of one-and-a-half meters. Business premises and shops have even ordered to create the proper conditions to achieve this, including markings on the floors and the introduction of special visiting regimes.

Sobyanin acknowledged many people will lose their jobs, due to the crisis. He said a monthly unemployment payment of 19,500 rubles ($248) will be available, which is about a fifth of the average official income in the city. It's worth noting, however, that basic living costs are substantially lower in Russia than in Western Europe or North America. For instance, a single bus ticket in Moscow is 44 rubles ($0.55), compared to $2.75 in New York.

Nevertheless, the 19,500 rubles payment is below Moscow's minimum wage of 20,195 rubles ($252).

Those who contract Covid-19 will first be visited by doctors at home and given free anti-viral drugs. Subsequently, free medicine will be delivered by an ambulance, clinic staff or volunteers. Should their condition worsen, they will be taken to hospital.

The tougher measures come after the number of infected in the city passed the 1,000 mark earlier on Sunday. The capital now accounts for two thirds of all reported Covid-19 cases in Russia. Mayor Sobyanin acknowledged that "the situation with the spread of the coronavirus has entered a new stage."