Vaccination now made compulsory for public-facing workers in Moscow

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City authorities in Moscow announced on Wednesday that all workers with public facing roles will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, one of the most forceful steps taken anywhere in the world to compel employees to get shots.

A decree listed a range of jobs - from hairdressers, retailers and taxi drivers to bank tellers, teachers and performers - for which vaccination will now be obligatory. Companies in the Russian capital were given one month to ensure at least 60 percent of their staff had received their first doses.

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Russia has been offering vaccines to the public since last year, but has so far seen low uptake and is now seeing a major new surge of infections, with the capital hardest hit.

“More than 12,000 people are in hospitals with varying degrees of severity. In terms of morbidity, we are already at the level of last year’s peak,” Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin wrote on Wednesday on his personal blog.

Countries around the world have been struggling to battle vaccine hesitancy. But most have stopped short of requiring vaccines, except in limited cases.

The Kremlin has expressed dismay at the slow rate of vaccinations in Russia. President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that only 18 million of Russia’s 144 million people had been vaccinated. Moscow has been exporting doses of its Sputnik V vaccine, even as it has difficulty persuading Russians to get the shot.

The decree by the city, dated June 15, said managers of enterprises would be required to ensure that at least 60 percent of employees had received one dose of a vaccine by July 15, and a second dose by Aug. 15 where required. A mechanism to monitor compliance would be set up by July 1.

Moscow accounted for 5,782 of Russia’s 13,397 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday. There were 75 deaths in the capital from coronavirus-linked causes in the past 24 hours.

Sobyanin said on Saturday Moscow was repurposing thousands of hospital beds for an influx of COVID-19 patients and told residents to stay off work this week to help curb the spread.

Several regions tightened coronavirus restrictions on Tuesday as authorities reported Russia’s largest one-day case tally since February. Over the weekend, St Petersburg, which is hosting matches in the Euro 2020 soccer finals, and Moscow said they were imposing new curbs.

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