Moscow to reopen schools, but extends other COVID-19 restrictions by one week

FILE PHOTO: First graders are seen in the classroom on the first day of the new school year, as schools reopen after the summer break and the lockdown due to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Moscow, Russia September 1, 2020. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Moscow has extended all restrictions against COVID-19 until Jan. 21, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on Thursday, with the exception of pupils returning to schools from Monday.

Russia, which launched a voluntary vaccination programme with the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine last month, has resisted imposing a strict lockdown as it did during the first wave of the coronavirus last year, relying on targeted measures instead.

Sobyanin said Moscow's vaccination programme was gaining momentum, with thousands of people being inoculated daily, but the numbers of those in hospitals remained high, which meant only a gradual reduction in restrictions was possible.

"I'll be direct. The decision to cancel distance learning in high schools was very difficult," Sobyanin wrote in a blog post on his website.

He warned that the risk of infection remained high and that the detection of one COVID-19 case would result in that pupil's whole class temporarily returning to distance learning.

Restrictions in Moscow include bars and restaurants having to close early, the wearing of medical masks in shops and on public transport, and businesses having to limit the number of staff in offices.

Russia reported 22,850 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, including 4,320 in Moscow, taking the total to 3,471,053 since the pandemic began.

The nationwide death toll stands at 63,370.

(Reporting by Anton Kolodyazhnyy; Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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