© Sputnik / Kirill Kallinikov
While punters in many parts of the world might struggle to buy a drink under tough rules aimed at halting the spread of Covid-19, Moscow is moving to reopen its nightlife industry, as numbers of positive tests continue to drop.

The Russian capital's mayor, Sergey Sobyanin, issued an order on Wednesday morning in which he confirmed that restrictions on bars, restaurants, clubs, and bowling alleys would be lifted.

Previously, rules had required businesses to shut between the hours of 11pm and 6am to limit the number of potential contacts made by partygoers. Venues will still have to stick to sanitary regimes, including caps on the number of guests, use of face masks, and maintaining social distancing.

Justifying the decision, Sobyanin said that "the situation with the spread of coronavirus infection continues to improve. During the past week, the number of new infections did not exceed two or three thousand per day. The number of hospitalized people dropped by another thousand. In coronavirus hospitals, more than 50 per cent of beds are free for the first time since mid-June last year."

"The pandemic is on the decline," he added, "and in these conditions, our duty is to create conditions for the fastest-possible economic recovery, primarily in the most affected sectors of the consumer market."

"The timing and stages of lifting the remaining restrictions will be announced later. And please remember," the mayor told Muscovites, "that the likelihood of contracting the coronavirus, although reduced, still exists. The fight is not over yet. We still have to be careful."

The situation is in stark contrast to much of the rest of Europe, with countries such as the UK, France, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Portugal, Belgium, and Greece all maintaining national lockdowns, curfews or bans on non-essential businesses.