Russian President Vladimir Putin instituted a mandatory national mask mandate on Oct. 27 as the country entered its second wave of COVID-19 infections and cases continue to rise.
COVID-19 cases are increasing around the globe, as the world enters a period anticipated by experts to be the “darkest of the pandemic.” In Russia, more than 1.5 million cases have been reported since the start of the pandemic with more than 27,000 deaths. The country is the fourth hardest-hit in the world, behind the U.S., India, and Brazil. At the start of the pandemic, Russia entered lockdown for six weeks. The mask mandate is likely being instituted in hopes of avoiding a second full lockdown.
The mask mandate is nationwide, requiring citizens to don a facial covering while in public. This includes while on public transportation—including in taxis—in parking garages, elevators, and in any place where more than 50 people gather, according to Business Insider. It also requires bars and restaurants to close between 11pm and 6am.
This is a sharp turn for Putin, who has taken a hands-off approach to handling the pandemic thus far. Like President Donald Trump, Putin has largely put the onus on regional governors to handle the health crisis as they see fit. Russia previously stated, according to Reuters, that it’s handling of the pandemic was superior to that of the U.S. because governors and federal authorities worked in cohesion.
The U.S. has yet to institute a country-wide mask mandate, though many states have individual mask requirements. The pandemic is expected to worsen in the winter, as people gather indoors to avoid the cold. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has expressed concern over the lack of a national mask mandate.
Russia reported 17,148 new cases on Oct. 26, breaking its previous daily record. The country experienced more cases in October than any other month.