Deutschlandfunk (Germany): Moscow after nine weeks of isolation

“Who knows how long it will last?”

It was not so much a question as an argument in favor of Hiking.

On the calendar it was Sunday, March 29, — good, almost warm spring day. My friend, one of the last of those with whom I met, walked along the garden ring and watched the changes around. People on the street were few tourists in General almost was not. Cafes and restaurants were already closed some parks and green areas fenced.

And here it is — “isolation”

We went to Moscow, what we did not know. Quiet, empty. The mood was very strange — as if everything was waiting for something, but didn’t want to believe it.

When I returned home in the evening, it happened. Came two urgent messages:

“On Monday introduced strict restrictions on leaving the house for all Muscovites”. And “All the Muscovites are obliged to respect the self-isolation”.

These urgent messages have dramatically changed my plans for the evening. The vegetables I cut for salad, left nedorezanny varyushina the pasta was still undercooked. I quickly got ready and went outside to continue observation.

What I just wrote about the situation in Moscow, and obsolete. Now I had to explain what “self-isolation”.

While the official figures of the incidence was relatively low. Throughout Russia at the time was only about 1.5 million confirmed cases of infection with coronavirus. But the fear that the virus will spread rapidly, and the Russian health care system, like Italian, can not cope with the influx of cases, from mid-March to grow day by day. In the first place is related Moscow with its millions of inhabitants. So the capital’s mayor Sergei Sobyanin constantly warned: “We are only at the beginning of the curve. We can only hope that all is not as bad as in other countries. But I assume that the peak we have yet to achieve. We cannot think that everything will somehow by itself”.

In record time, in Moscow, opened a new hospital. City officials warned that the account literally every second. Rebuilt with the aim of the patients with coronavirus not only municipal, but also private clinics. Deputy mayor Anastasia Rakova in mid-April announced: “the Whole of the Moscow health care system is in a state of anxiety. She works at the limit”.

“I beg you, stay home!”

Medical personnel — doctors, nurses — has long been worked tirelessly. Social networks were full of desperate cries for help that by may, when the crisis reached its climax, became the most dramatic. A group of actors from St. Petersburg brought them together and made the appropriate calls.

“People! I beg you, it is a cry from the heart! Please stay at home! The second wave we physically couldn’t take it. Will not remain just anyone will be able to treat you during the second wave, because we are already at the limit. God bless you!”

According to rumors, became infected and died more than 300 doctors and nurses. Their fate shocked me. For example, the fate of the Chechen doctor by the name of Ramzan, which our colleagues-TV men knew personally. He was only 37 years old.

Was it tough and rescue services. The network had a lot of video, which was seen as one of the hospitals on the outskirts of Moscow has lined up a huge queue of ambulances carrying patients with symptoms of coronavirus.

Even on the state TV channels transmitted: first was the assumption that it is fake, but apparently not: “These pictures are real. Our reporters talked to doctors and they confirmed it.”

Not enough facilities and protective equipment. More and more doctors have contracted the coronavirus. The rescue service felt the growing shortage of personnel.

Putin declared “hours a week”

From this moment utilities began to regularly disinfect the yards and sidewalks. People from the streets was almost gone. In the city there were no more traffic jams, could not hear car horns. Red square, Old Arbat street, usually full of tourists, were empty. Parks were closed.

But the number of infected in the capital continued to grow. Despite the isolation and the fact that President Putin, in late March announced the so-called “hours a week” and all the people working at the enterprises, whose activity is vital for the country, was allowed to stay home.

Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin, often preferring to stay in the shadows, suddenly surprisingly actively took up the case. He criticized the insufficient number of tests for coronavirus, said that the real number of cases is much larger, and warned that the unreasonable behavior of some Muscovites may have bad consequences.

“We saw that about 20% of residents responded to the request to stay home completely indifferent”.

Started, in fact, chain reaction: the better the weather is, the more people out on the street and more often in city driving police vehicles, announces:

“Attention! The danger of the spread of coronavirus grows. Do not go outside without an important reason! Only compliance with the maximum isolation guarantees your safety!”

Happiness in the country

Now it’s so lucky for those who have a dacha — country house. Catherine’s son and nephew left Moscow right before the announcement of “lockdown”. And it was not only permitted, but even recommended to the inhabitants of the city authorities.

She sent us a video in which boys playing in a garden, jumping over coloured chalk boxes and drawn lines.

“This obstacle course is not only for children but also for the coronavirus. It is very difficult to handle. Children do it — coronavirus here do not pass”.

However, it is an escape for the city has nothing to do with a carefree life in nature, Catherine added. Here it is also limited contacts with the outside world: no kebabs, no walking around the hotel. In nature, of course, is good — better than the four walls in the city…

“…but the family can’t get together because some of us had to stay in the city. They need to work on, but here is not such a good the Internet.”

Internet these days is needed more than ever — be it for video conferencing with colleagues and friends, to order delivery or to download movies or videos for fitness.

And, of course, to obtain the QR codes. In mid-April, Moscow authorities introduced the electronic pass. Those who are going to travel somewhere by bus, metro, car or taxi, it is now necessary to obtain permission from the authorities. The first day, when the authorities started to check passes people, has turned into a real disaster. Tube at the entrance to the city was terrible, the drivers swore: “no One can drive… a Hell of a long tube. All I want to Moscow!”

Even worse was the situation in the Moscow metro. In front of the control points lined up in a long queue in which people were close to each other. In a network there are a lot of videos where it was obvious that the situation is tense.

“There is one policeman with one device, which it reads permissions. And in a queue of 100-150 people!”

Many of those who stood in those queues, and later said that their tests for coronavirus was positive.

Masks, gloves, plastic visor

In Moscow for a long time there was no rule for compulsory wearing of masks. However, without masks I’ve seen very few people on the streets and in the nearest supermarket. And some were filled for the full program, still putting on protective eyewear and gloves. Sellers and cashiers also tried to protect themselves from infection. Some are now wearing not only masks, but also additional plastic visor.

I also began to wear a mask, entering the store. For this I was in the supermarket across the road bestowed unexpected gifts: friendly smiles, gratitude and discounts.

Many Muscovites began to be careful. Almost everybody had sick friends. Seeing at the entrance of the ambulance, people immediately strained. In the Internet there are sites where you can find information about the number of people infected with coronavirus.

Coronavirus has not bypassed the government. One of the first to have contracted it a “crisis Manager” Putin — Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.

“Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich, I just found out that my test for coronavirus was positive. So I go to quarantine and I will follow the recommendations of doctors.”

And Putin replied: “Dear Mikhail Vladimirovich, what happened to you could happen to anyone”. According to the President, he hoped that the Prime Minister nevertheless remain in good shape.

Putin seemed confused and delegated authority

President Putin these days seemed more and more confused. But, anyway, he is the President. State television in a live show it regular a long and tiring conference. But it was obvious: the President is passive and delegate authority to others.

“In this regard, according to my decree, heads of regions receive additional powers. They should take the best steps for their regions.”

Thus, it is governors and mayors were told to take care of the residents during the crisis. And the many small and medium enterprises.

Many of them were on the verge of collapse immediately after the announcement of the “non-working weeks.” Entrepreneur Anastasia Tatulova owned prior to the outbreak of coronavirus successful chain of restaurants, in desperation, appealed personally to Putin. According to her, from 2 thousand employees it will be able to save only 120 people — those who work in their own bakery.

“And then the government says: “You can’t fire somebody and have to pay salaries”. But if there is no money? I they pay?! I don’t have a Maserati, a house in Monaco, yachts. All that I earned in past years, I have invested in the company.”

Authorities have offered businesses loans, but sooner or later they will have to pay. “What am I to do? quietly asked the businesswoman. A kidney to sell?”

Without financial assistance from the state

According to the President the report of the business Ombudsman Boris Titov, the government promised financial assistance reached only 10% of companies. This is despite the fact that more than half of them said that he was in a crisis situation.

What does it mean, I saw every time I went to the supermarket or someplace a little further away. Every extra step is a small festival on a sad background. Recently in my neighborhood opened a few small establishments: pizzeria, café, flower stall. Now everywhere many empty storefronts, and if where-that still there are chairs, it’s still good. On the doors of many similar institutions appeared the ad: “for rent”.

In the middle of may almost every day established a new record low with five, six thousand cases, and that in one only to Moscow. The pressure on the city government grew. On the one hand, the rapid growth of the infected, and this is an argument in favor of stricter quarantine measures. On the other hand, economic circles insist on relief.

When at the end of may, finally began a gradual decline in the number of infected, the mayor Sobyanin has given the green light: the newly opened construction sites, and resumed the work of large industrial enterprises.

“In this regard, last week nearly a million increased the number of people using public transport. You can imagine the scale? It was a difficult and drastic decision”.

Then opened the service centers. Individual hospitals have resumed normal operation. Beauty salons and fitness centers are still closed as cafes, restaurants and bars. But: “Monday, June 1, allowed, and perhaps most importantly, what people were waiting for: walking in parks, squares and streets. But, of course, there needs to be some restrictions.”

The biggest happiness — walking schedule

Muscovites were divided into six groups. According to the plan of the authorities, they can walk on certain days from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on the streets to avoid crowds.

My house is in the 3rd group, and that means we’re in the first week unable to walk on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and next week — Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. But only in disguise.

Let the restrictions remain in force, after nine weeks of sitting at home this is the ad — like Christmas and birthday.

All hope that this is the beginning of the end constraints. There are times when the main event of the day was a visit to the garbage container to remain in the past. The city will soon become the same as before: noisy, cheerful and a little crazy — the real capital!