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Moscow mayor orders 'long weekend' away from work to curb COVID-19 surge

Russian Emergency Situations Ministry worker sanitizes Friday in front of the COVID-19 mobile laboratory on the Belorussky railway station in Moscow. Photo by Sergei Ilnitsky/EPA-EFE
Russian Emergency Situations Ministry worker sanitizes Friday in front of the COVID-19 mobile laboratory on the Belorussky railway station in Moscow. Photo by Sergei Ilnitsky/EPA-EFE

June 12 (UPI) -- Moscow's mayor ordered a 'long weekend,' away from work in the city from Saturday through June 20 to prevent the spread of COVID-19 amid a surge in cases.

"In order to stop the growth of morbidity and save people's lives, today I have signed a decree providing for non-working days...with the preservation of wages for workers," Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin announced in a statement. "Thus, the 'long weekend' in Moscow will last nine days -- from 12 to 20 June."

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The decree applies to businesses which usually do not work on weekends, according to the statement.

While take-out service will be allowed during the day, restaurants, cafes, bars and nightclubs and other entertainment establishments will be prohibited from serving customers from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.

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Under the decree, large city parks and attractions will be closed and food courts and children's playrooms in shopping centers will be halted.

"Friends' a 'long weekend' will help to cope with increase in morbidity only if each of us is very careful these days," Sobyanin said in the statement. "And of course, we need to be more actively vaccinated. Thus, you will protect yourself and your loved ones. All vaccination points will work on weekends."

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Confirmed daily cases of COVID-19 have risen by 47% over the past week, including doubling in Moscow to over 6,700 cases in 24 hours, Russia's pandemic task force said, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

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The same task force cited 13,510 new infections across the nation the previous day.

Sobyanin told The Moscow Times earlier this month 1.3 million people have received coronavirus vaccination in about six months and another 1 million residents will be vaccinated by the end of the year.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the approval of Sputnik V as the world's first COVID-19 vaccine last summer, but the country has lagged behind several other countries in its vaccination rates, Bloomberg's COVID-19 Tracker shows. The tracker shows 12.3% of Russia's population has received one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 10.2% are fully vaccinated, in comparison to the United States and Britain where over 40% are fully vaccinated, and Israel where over 56% are fully vaccinated.

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Since the pandemic began, Russia has reported over 5.1 million cases and over 123,900 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.

Other countries are also limiting activities due to the ongoing pandemic.

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In Saudi Arabia, the government has limited the annual Hajj pilgrimage to 60,000 residents and nationals due to the pandemic, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced in a statement Saturday on Twitter.

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"In light of the recent updates of COVID-19 and the emergence of its new variants worldwide, #hajj2021 will be available only for residents and citizens from inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," the ministry said in the Twitter thread.

To register for Hajj, people must be fully vaccinated or have received at least a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine 14 days prior, or have recovered from COVID-19 infection, the ministry added.

Registration for Hajj will be open from 1 p.m. Sunday, through 10 p.m. Wednesday, the ministry announced in another tweet.

The Hajj pilgrimage is expected to begin in mid-July this year.

Saudi Arabia has reported over 460,000 COVID-19 cases and over 7,500 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began, according to the global tracker.

In India, a Goods and Services Tax panel decided Saturday in its council meeting to provide tax relief for COVID-19 essentials and black fungus medicine, Times of India reported.

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India has the second highest number of COVID-19 cases worldwide at over 29.3 million, trailing only the United States, which has over 33.4 million cases, according to the global tracker. India also has the third highest number of deaths from COVID-19 worldwide at over 367,000, trailing only Brazil at over 480,000 and the United States at over 599,000 deaths.

Worldwide, COVID-19 has infected over 175.3 million people and killed over 3.7 million people, the same tracker shows.

Scenes from COVID-19 surge in India

Homeless and migrant laborers affected by the COVID-19 lockdown queue up to receive free cooked food distributed by Sikh volunteers in New Delhi, India, on May 18, 2021. Photo by Abhishek/UPI | License Photo

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