Less than two weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed reports of a coronavirus outbreak in his country as “fake news,” Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin announced that starting on Monday, the city would go on lockdown. This affects more than 10 million; approximately one of every 14 Russians. The announcement comes after Sobyanin denied that he would take the harsh measure, a denial he has made since March 19.
In addition to Putin’s previously nonchalant attitude toward the coronavirus pandemic, the Russian government has been accused of covering up the true extent of the outbreak inside the country. Doctors in Moscow say that cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by coronavirus infection, have been falsely classified as simple pneumonia.
On Sunday, independent Russian investigative news site The Insider published a report alleging that Russian medical authorities have deliberately falsified coronavirus test results.
The officially announced coronavirus case total as of Sunday was 1,534, with 270 new cases reported on that day, according to a report by The Moscow Times. That number was the highest one-day total so far in Russia, and more than 1,000 of the total cases in the country have been recorded in the city of Moscow, the country’s capital city and home to the Kremlin.
According to a separate Moscow Times report, it was only on Friday that the Russian government demanded that social media sites Facebook and Twitter remove “fake news” about the coronavirus outbreak in Russia.
Among the supposed “fake news” was a report claiming that Moscow planned to impose a curfew on its citizens to help control the spread of coronavirus. At the time, Moscow authorities denied that the city would be placed under lockdown, but on March 28, Sobyanin announced that he would do exactly that.
From March 29 to April 5, Moscow residents will not be permitted to leave their homes except to perform essential functions, such as seeking emergency medical care, taking out garbage, and walking pets — though only within a 100-meter radius of their homes. Residents may also travel to work if they are unable to work remotely.
The Kremlin announced that starting on March 30, Russia’s borders would close to any foreign entry by car, train, foot, as well as by sea, according to the Moscow Times report.
Russia shares a 2,600-mile border with China, where the coronavirus pandemic began. It remains unclear how much Putin and Russian intelligence agencies knew about the outbreak in China. Just two days after a scientist informed the Chinese government that the fast-spreading respiratory illness was caused by a new coronavirus — and two days before China informed the World Health Organization of the outbreak, though without mentioning coronavirus — Putin spoke on the phone with Donald Trump.
The full contents of that phone call have not been publicly revealed.