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Moscow mayor ends mask requirement, cites improving COVID-19 situation

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Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin on Monday cancelled a long-standing requirement for people to wear protective medical masks in public, citing the improving situation with COVID-19 and the need to support businesses facing sanctions pressure.

Daily coronavirus cases peaked at 203,949 on Feb. 11 as the highly contagious Omicron variant spread rapidly across the country, but have fallen steadily since then. On Monday, 41,055 new infections were recorded.

The drop off in coronavirus-related deaths has been less pronounced. The government coronavirus task force reported 533 deaths in the last 24 hours across the country on Monday, down from a high of 1,254 on Nov. 20, 2021.

In Moscow, a city of around 13 million people, there were 957 new infections and 44 deaths reported on Monday.

"Steady improvement in the epidemiological situation allows us to take a long-awaited decision," Sobyanin wrote on his personal website. "From Tuesday, March 15, we are cancelling the requirement to use protective masks."

He said companies would no longer have to take anti-COVID-19 measures such as carrying out temperature checks of employees and seeking to ensure social distancing.

"In the current circumstances, this decision will also support businesses that are already experiencing serious sanctions pressure."

Unprecedented western sanctions against Moscow over events in Ukraine have seen a flood of companies cease operations in Russia and uncertainty rise for businesses in the country.

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