Moscow ordered service-sector and municipal workers to get vaccinated amid a spike in COVID-19 infections, as the Kremlin denied any reversal in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s opposition to compulsory inoculation.
At least 60% of workers at consumer-facing businesses and city employees, including health professionals and teachers, must receive a dose of one of Russia’s domestically-developed vaccines by July 15, according to an order from Moscow’s public-health office published Wednesday.
“If you work in an organization that serves an indefinite circle of people, during an epidemic it is definitely not only your own business,” Mayor Sergei Sobyanin wrote on his blog announcing the measures. “We are simply obliged to do everything to carry out mass vaccinations in the shortest possible time.”
The order, and a similar one in the Moscow region, covers Russia’s biggest metropolitan area that is home about 20 million. Putin told investors earlier this month at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum that Russia had coped with the pandemic better than many other countries and “we will not force anyone” to get vaccinated.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said no compulsory vaccinations are planned, the state-run RIA Novosti news service reported Wednesday.
The number of COVID-19 cases in the Russian capital has soared this month as the highly-contagious delta variant first identified in India spreads, with daily infections nearing December highs.
Sobyanin, who called the vaccination decision “difficult but necessary,” restored sweeping restrictions in the capital this week after announcing that city hospitals were re-converting thousands of beds to deal with the surge in infections.
Cases are also rising nationwide, in part because only about 12% of Russians have been inoculated amid public skepticism of the locally-developed vaccines.
Last month, Yakutia in Russia’s Far East was the first region to order workers to get vaccinated, with employers facing fines if they didn’t ensure compliance.