Some vaccinated Russians offered laxer COVID-19 curbs, life without masks

Polina Nikolskaya

By Polina Nikolskaya

MOSCOW, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Some Russian regions are proposing to relax COVID-19 restrictions such as mandatory mask-wearing and other incentives for Russians who receive the homegrown vaccine.

Russia, which has the world's fourth highest number of COVID-19 cases, began large-scale inoculations with its Sputnik V vaccine last month and President Vladimir Putin has said the programme should be made available to all Russians next week.

On Thursday, the governor of the far eastern Sakhalin region proposed distributing badges to people who have had the vaccine allowing them to no longer wear face masks.

Businesses such as hairdressers or fishing plants could also be officially declared "green zones" once all of their staff have had the jab, the governor, Valery Limarenko, said.

"We have to return to life as fast as possible," he said on social media.

In Moscow, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has told students and pensioners that their social cards, which grant them free or cheaper public transport but were frozen during the pandemic, will be unblocked once they have the vaccination.

Moscow residents say the number of people signing up for the vaccine is picking up, having been slow just a few weeks ago.

Pavel, a 34-year-old Muscovite, told Reuters there was no queue when he arrived for his first jab of the two-dose vaccine in late December, but that the clinic was packed when he returned for the second jab on Wednesday.

Russia on Thursday reported 24,763 new COVID-19 cases in the previous 24 hours, pushing the national tally to almost 3.5 million since the pandemic began. The death toll stands at 63,940 people. (Reporting by Polina Nikolskaya; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Angus MacSwan)