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Masks on, but flouting social distancing: How Moscow residents were freed from lockdown

МOSCOW, June 9. /ТASS/. The first day since the self-isolation, travel permits and walking schedule were lifted in Moscow began as if the coronavirus epidemic had never happened and it was just a usual Tuesday in June — with small traffic jams and crowds in the metro.

Moscow declared a high alert over the coronavirus on March 29. All residents were told to self-isolate, while numerous shops, eating establishments, parks, gyms and other facilities were closed. However, the city’s authorities have recently begun to ease restrictions as the coronavirus situation is improving. On Monday, Moscow’s authorities have decided to rescind self-isolation rules, travel permits and walking schedules starting on June 9.

For several months of self-isolation, the city residents who could commute by public transport were used to the fact that there were much fewer people on it than usual, which made it possible to calmly maintain social distance and feel comfortable. Personal safety is also important - almost all passengers wore masks and gloves, and it was much easier to keep track of that.

Railway stations

According to TASS correspondents, the situation at suburban railway stations in Moscow and nearest Moscow Region was far from the usual during the morning rush hour, yet the number of passengers increased. It was difficult for the passengers to wear face masks and gloves in the cars, a lot of them took them off in order to breathe as there was no air conditioning.

People were trying to maintain social distance at suburban railway platforms, but with the growing passenger flow at car's exits and entrances it just became impossible. It appears, that there were no traffic controllers or announcements urging to wear face masks and gloves, according to witnesses. Although in general, the correspondents report that more than 70% of the railway passengers were wearing face masks — at least, when waiting for a train.

Public transport

At 08:00 at some metro stations there were noticeably more passengers than during the self-isolation, but less than before those rules came into force. A sufficiently large number of people gathered at the ticket office - for example, at the Kievskaya metro station, the TASS correspondent observed small lines of about five people. People in the ticket lines tried to maintain distance from each other, but as the number of passengers grew, the social distance began to decrease dangerously. The same situation was observed at the entrances - despite the fact that people tried not to get too close to one another, a little jostling at the turnstiles was inevitable.

On the metro, the situation was different: on some lines passengers completely ignored stickers reminding them to keep their distance and sat close to each other, and on others, for example, on the Filevskaya line, where the passenger flow was not usually that heavy - nevertheless tried to disperse. However, here, unlike on the suburban trains, most passengers were wearing masks and gloves.

On city buses, the correspondents also noted a rather large number of passengers, which also led to a violation of the social distance rules. No warnings were made either on the media screens or on the speaker.

Streets and restaurants

As for pedestrians, there still few people in the streets, for example, the city center and the Moscow boulevards at 08:00 - 09:00 felt quite deserted. The streets turned out to be the only place where TASS correspondents were able to hear reminders of the need to comply with the mask and glove rules and social distance - this happened near the McDonald's at Tretyakovskaya metro station.

At the same time, according to the employees of those cafes and restaurants that offer take out and delivery, on Tuesday morning they did not notice a serious increase in the number of customers. An employee of one of these cafes on Nikitsky Boulevard told our correspondent that during the first half hour of work there were no clients at all. He also noted that the cafe does not expect a serious increase in the number of guests until at least the terrace opens - this is expected to happen on June 16, and in a week restaurants and cafes will be able to get back to normal. In general, as the agency’s source noted, during the three months that the cafe has been working in a limited mode, the same customers come here for coffee and lunch, whose enterprises continued to work on their usual schedule and did not switch to teleworking.

Moscow traffic jams

There were also traffic jams on some of the city streets in the morning. For example, on Barrikadnaya Street and Nosovikhinskoe Highway the traffic was higher than usual. According to Yandex.Traffic, at 10:20 Moscow time traffic congestion accounted for only three points. In the city center there were traffic jams on Tverskaya and Bolshaya Polyanks streets, the traffic was also heavy on several Moscow embankments.