Quarantine in Moscow: in Delivery We Trust

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“Welcome to Moscow”

This brief report covers the situation in Moscow, Russia. The active measures against the pandemic were dated the 3rd week of March. To be precise with the current status, the report is dated the 14th of April.

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Retrieved from https://www.cashin.ru/virus/timing/?fbclid=IwAR0PNZuptupEdouJH9B8l-Pv87Xql5MPFhe93QVzTNP7gnDgX72VUbHzFc8

At the moment the state of emergency is declared neither in Russia, nor in Moscow. Some experts argue that the reason for that is not only the lack of legislation, but also insufficient funds for the population support during the state of emergency. At the moment isolation afforded by fines and numerous police units doesn’t require financial support of those who stuck at home without income or savings.

The quarantine suppression measures were imposed in all the regions, but the local government was authorized to adjust them based on the local situation. All of these measures have been legally authorized in federal and local Government decrees.

Here is the list of actions taken to prevent the transmission of the virus:

  • Public holidays till the 30th of April. In fact, most companies shifted to remote work to stay isolated.
  • Shopping malls, restaurants, beauty and hair salons are closed till the 30th of April.
  • Medical facilities are either closed or open for 6 hours daily. Checkups and diagnostic procedures are postponed: acute conditions and accident & emergency cases are now the only reasons to access health services. Admission of outpatients is limited.
  • Kindergartens, schools, and universities, both public and private, are closed. The educational process is being carried out online.

Regulations

On the 15th of April Moscow launched a digital pass system for all citizens. It means that those who have destinations to travel such as work (doctors), medical facilities, post office, etc. must generate digital pass online using the unified government website. There is no need to use the pass to shop in the local supermarket or pharmacy, but for dog owners, the maximum walking distance is set to 100m from home.

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Digital pass

The violation of the self-isolation regime (eg. walking, doing sports or visiting friends and family) is considered an administrative offense punishable by fines from 50$ to 500$. During the last 5 days, more than 9000 fines were registered.

Mobility

Total self-isolation affected mobility and public transport services. According to Apple statistics on mobility in Moscow, both walking and driving have dropped significantly.

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Mobility report by Apple

It’s important to note that Moscow authorities decided not to close the metro as the major means of public transport. Ridership is now almost twice lower, while the intervals between trains remain 60–90 sec. Empty carriages are equipped with notifications and stickers reminding passengers to keep the distance.

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“Keep the distance, don’t seat here”, Moscow Metro

Until the 13th of April private cars and taxis were the safest means of transport. From 15th April and on cars leaving and entering the city are being checked by police. The authorities are now trying to prevent the spread of the virus and stop muscovites from leaving the city. Hence, taxi drivers now are obliged to check the digital passes of the clients; if the final destination in the app doesn’t match with that on the digital pass, then the ride won’t start. Lawyers criticize the measure as drivers hardly have the right to do this as the state of emergency is not proclaimed.

Governmental actions: suppression & digital control

Moscow uses several video surveillance systems; they cover public transport, metro turnstiles, apartment entrances, an outdoor territory near apartment buildings. Face recognition will be implemented by the 1st of September but has already been tested. These efforts were supplemented by the cooperation with telecom operators to monitor the activity of tourists coming from abroad.

Even if it seems like these initiatives are sufficient for control, the federal government has enforced the police to patrol the city. The Ministry of Emergency Situations (MES) and the National Guard of Russia are also involved, which means they can take actions against citizens who violate quarantine.

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The members of the National Guard of the Russian Federation issue fines

Healthcare: measures to fight the virus

Several Hospitals for Infectious Diseases are operating at the moment. Moscow is also experiencing a shortage of means of protection, which means risks for medical staff are increasing. It would be fair to say that patients with chronic diseases, those waiting for surgery or constant treatment are now lacking medical care.

Economics

At the moment the government is working out the second plan for supporting the economy. Support mostly focuses on large companies. People are losing jobs in masses: small and middle business and freelancers suffer the most. This will affect Moscow and the regions differently. For example, unemployment benefits vary according to region; the difference in the amount of the allowance could be up to 10 times despite the fact that even in Moscow it covers only ¼ of the average salary — the maximum sum of 260$ guaranteed by the governmental program.

The ongoing quarantine and falling oil prices (30$ now against 66$ at the beginning of the year) could be the very emergence of the crisis, which some experts predict to be more severe for the economy than those of 2008–2009 and 2014.

Future impact and implication

As it was fairly noticed by Yuval Noah Harari, authoritarian regimes will highly likely strengthen their positions on the pretext of pandemic control. The worldwide data exchange and implemented tracking systems, which are widely used in Moscow, are now fueling the enhanced legitimized governmental control. The cooperation between the governments and IT/Telecom companies is a frequent international practice, but in Russia, the procedure for obtaining personal data is simplified due to “Yarovaya Law” (if necessary telecom companies were forcedto retain every byte of data that they transmit, including video, telephone calls, text messages, web traffic, and email for six months”).

Thinking about the tendencies observed in Moscow it’s worth noting that during summer 2019 there was a series of protests against fraud in the Moscow City Duma elections. The protests were suppressed by unlawful and ungrounded violence (elderly people, students and school pupils were also violently arrested).

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Meeting in Moscow on 10th of August, 2019

The rising capacity for protest that has been demonstrated since last summer and the growing digital activism will be fueled with lacking financial support from the government and significant economic crisis. It will hit the whole country, hence the approval ratings of Putin and the Mayor of Moscow Sergey Sobyanin will plummet.

Moscow meets the suppression with the following tendencies:

  • faltering economic activity in the centers of gravity
  • lack of necessity to live in a vivid area or close to work
  • massive outflow of Muscovites to the regions
  • shared rental of the houses in the regions/on the outskirts of the city

If these trends continue, the real estate market will tend to offer houses in the Moscow region and the demand for flats near the centers of attractions will decline, so will the prices. Consequently, the value of personal transport increases, as carsharing, which is widely used in Moscow (5 companies, > 27K cars), is not in service now. Individual travel is safer and less necessary when residing out of the city.

Isolation put families together 3 weeks ago without the right to leave the house unless urgent needs which take 1 hour a day max (walking a dog, doing shopping). The average flat for sale in Moscow (summer 2019) was 58 sq m, while resale properties are approximately 70 sq m. Assuming that an average family includes 2 adults and 2 kids, we can see that each person has 11 sq m (excluding non-residential space). Russia doesn’t a have domestic violence law, which is widely condemned by human rights organizations, activists and the victims of domestic violence (60% of criminal acts against children in Russia are committed in families, 38% of femicide is accounted for by the actions of their partners). At the moment, Assistance funds for victims of domestic violence are reporting a 15–20% increase in the number of calls. The quarantine measures and lack of financial support limit the abilities of funds to provide help and shelter

Change in urban design after covid19

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Empty lane, retrieved from https://www.yaplakal.com/forum2/topic2092025.html

The places we use to describe our cities — parks, shopping malls, museums, office centers — are empty and closed. As it seems now, the post pickup points, parks and other places with an open concept will be less dangerous in the short term. The spaces with artificial ventilation pose a threat, as new methods and standards for air filtration and purification should be adopted (we all remember the case of “Diamond Princess”).

If the new regulations are implemented, companies and proprietors will become responsible for compliance with the standards, hence will bear the costs of the modernisation.

One of the features of the capital of Russia is the abundance of residential complexes with the protected closed territory. The isolation results in the pursuit of maximum functionality in the immediate surroundings, thus, these complexes win, as they can offer various services and leisure ensuring high safety standards.

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“Khelzavod №9 / Presnya City”, a new apartment complex, retrieved from https://ricci-estate.ru/catalog/zhk-presnya-siti/

The flourishing service sector, especially delivery (food, dry cleaners, beauty, cleaning) is the defining feature of Moscow. The delivery is now the main service that connects people: friends deliver home-cooked food to each other, flowers and gifts, colleagues send and receive official papers and sign them at the door to return to the courier. It seems like the boundaries home/office or private/public have become blurred, or maybe we have introduced more people to the inner circle by wearing pyjamas in front of the webcam. A Russian urban sociologist argues that Russian mentality inclines to stay at home. People are more likely to choose private-to-public space in the kitchen or dining room rather than a pub, thus, commercial spaces in the city center will be more damaged in Moscow compared to other megacities. The so-called private-to-public spaces are quite autonomous and depend mostly on people and less on delivery.


Yevgenyia Yusova

Yevgenyia Yusova
Yevgeniya has a background in urban research and transport analysis. Holds the MSc Degree in Smart Cities and Urban Analysis, UCL, works on Wi-Fi infrastructure projects and masters service design.

References:

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