Putin's "lockdown lite" prevents millions from dining out

“Damn!” swore a 26-year-old who gave his name as Nikolai, as staff refused him entry to a bar in downtown Moscow, on a recent evening. In the end he got a beer and sat sullenly in the rain at the venue’s outside tables. City authorities have allowed summer terraces to accept all customers, but only until July 12.

The Russian capital on Monday began requiring residents to show a QR code proving they’ve had a vaccine, recently tested negative, or have recovered from the virus to get into bars and restaurants. So far, they’ve issued only 2.5 million passes to a population of 12 million. A top official said the city may extend the system to shops, entertainment venues and public transport.

Other regions are also imposing strict rules to pressure people to take the jab. The QR system is also in effect in the broader Moscow region of about 8 million people.

Russia has been reporting record-high numbers of deaths from Covid-19 recently in a fresh wave of infections that’s strained hospitals and pushed daily new cases above 20,000, the most since January. The highly-contagious delta variant first identified in India is largely behind virus’s resurgence, and it’s sparking concerns about undermining Russia’s fragile economic recovery.