Russia backs away from unpopular anti-coronavirus measures

Russia backs away from unpopular anti-coronavirus measures


MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian government on Friday chose to delay adopting unpopular legislation restricting access to public places for the unvaccinated, despite an infection surge and warnings from top officials about the spread of the omicron variant.

Russia reported 23,820 new infections, a 12% increase from the previous day, and 739 deaths. Moscow officials also reported 729 confirmed omicron variant cases in the capital since Dec. 20, and just two days before Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova had reported 698 cases across Russia — more than double the total from a day earlier.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said the omicron variant is responsible for nearly half of all new infections in the capital as daily cases are expected to rise to 7,000 on Saturday.

The omicron variant spreads even more easily than other coronavirus strains, and has already become dominant in many countries. It also more easily infects those who have been vaccinated or had previously been infected by prior versions of the virus. However, early studies show omicron is less likely to cause severe illness than the previous delta variant.

Golikova said the legislation was postponed due to the “high uncertainty” as the draft bill was originally prepared in response to the delta variant but “new challenges” have arisen.

The bill required Russians willing to access certain public places to have a QR code either confirming vaccination, recent recovery from COVID-19, or a medical exemption from immunization.

The initiative, along with another bill proposing a similar system for both domestic and international planes and trains, was met with high resistance amid a largely vaccine-skeptical population. The transport bill was withdrawn from parliament last month, but the one on public places passed...

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