Wire Service
2 minute read
16 Dec 2021
3:42 pm

Russia backs Covid passes for public places


Russia is one of the hardest-hit countries with more than 10 million infections and Europe's highest death toll from the pandemic.

Russia's Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine. Picture: Mohammed Abed/AFP

Russian lawmakers on Thursday approved legislation in a first reading that will require people to show health passes to access public places like bars and restaurants, as the country gears up for a winter Covid wave.

Russia is one of the hardest-hit countries with more than 10 million infections and Europe’s highest death toll from the pandemic.

But officials have faced a vaccine-sceptic population and have sounded the alarm over the new Omicron variant and approaching winter holidays that they say could bring a new surge in infections.

Russia’s lower house of parliament on Thursday approved legislation requiring health passes for public places such as bars, restaurants, museums and theatres.

From February 1 next year people will have to prove they have been vaccinated, have recovered from the virus or have medical conditions preventing them from getting jabbed.

ALSO READ: Russia admits WHO yet to approve Sputnik jab over lack of data

The draft legislation leaves it to local authorities in Russia’s 85 regions to determine where people must show health passes.

The measure, which will not cover essential shops like pharmacies and grocery stores, will be in place until June 1, 2022. 

Public resistance to health passes has seen a separate bill shelved that would have introduced the measure for public transport. 

As of Thursday, just 43 percent of Russians had been fully vaccinated, despite several homemade jabs having been available for free since last year.

Surveys by the independent Levada Centre pollster earlier this month showed that one-quarter of respondents are ready to attend local protests against health passes and two-thirds oppose the legislation.

The health passes bill will go through two more readings in the lower house State Duma. In steps that are considered formalities, the legislation will then need to be approved by the upper house Federation Council before President Vladimir Putin signs it into law.