After a semi-enforced 6 months away due to the pandemic I am now back in Moscow where it seems to be back to ‘business as usual’. I got an inkling of what to expect when checking in for my flight. Almost everyone at the airport was wearing a mask, as per the rules, except for a few people checking in for the Moscow flight. And of those wearing a mask in the Moscow queue at least 50% were wearing them under their noses. Once onboard our Wizz Air plane, however, things got tougher for those reluctant mask wearers. A man in the seat in front of me was resoundingly admonished by the Chief steward for not wearing his mask properly and was warned that if he had to be spoken to again his passport details would be taken and he be banned from flying with Whizz Air!! After that he complied and wore his mask correctly until the instant the seatbelt sign went off after landing and then the mask came back down under his nose.
Walking around Moscow you might initially be forgiven for thinking that Russia was completely free of the virus. For the first couple of blocks I saw only 2 masks, I did then begin to see a few more (but not many), and for those that did wear them the most popular way of wearing them was under the chin. Now this might not be too surprising outside in the street but it was the same in the shops and very few were wearing them in the supermarket. The only exception was that serving staff in cafes and restaurants did all seem to be wearing them, and mostly correctly, although there were a few noses poking out, and there are hand sanitisers everywhere. As for social distancing that is a complete non starter! The Russians have a very different idea of personal space to us and get much much closer to each other than we feel comfortable with and so the idea of staying 2 meters apart (in spite of signs on the ground) must feel like a vast chasm to them – and so they just don’t do it.
All of this although the daily infection rate is running at about 5500 a day throughout Russia, not much perhaps in a country the size of Russia you may think, but with about 600 of these infections in Moscow you would think they would be a little more concerned.
That said, when we ventured out of the city to a couple of towns on the Golden Ring (more about them in a separate post), there were very strict signs saying “No mask, No entry” to all of the churches and museums (of which there are many).
I have yet to venture on to the buses or underground but I read that only about 25% of people are wearing masks on the Metro so I won’t be using it anytime soon! In fact today I used one of those electric scooters which have popped up all over Moscow in my absence!
So as a result, I wear my mask, I sanitise my hands, I avoid crowds, and I try to stay outside. But what is going to happen as the weather gets colder and we are all forced indoors and onto public transport?