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COVID-19: Russia Ends Mandatory Non-Work Days but Restrictions Continue

May 15, 2020

Russia ended the mandatory non-work days introduced to curb the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, initially from 30 March through 3 April with further several extensions through 11 May. However, the end of non-work days does not mean "back to normal." The subjects of the Russian Federation (Russia’s constituencies) must continue to maintain the specific preventive measures depending on the epidemiological situation in a particular territory. In this alert, we address some recent changes introduced in connection with the end of non-work days, with a particular focus on Moscow.

End of All-Russia Downtime but Local Limitations Remain

On 11 May, during the teleconference on the sanitary and epidemiological situation, President Vladimir Putin announced that the non-work days regime is over (on the non-work days concept, please read our previous LawFlash). However, the measures related to the prevention of COVID-19 (the measures) will still apply on local levels.

Under the President Decree of 11 May 2020 (May Decree), the heads of Russia’s constituencies must determine, for the relevant territories, whether the measures should continue to apply.

The Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Well-Being (Rospotrebnadzor) is Russia’s government authority responsible, among other things, for the development of state sanitary and epidemiological rules and hygienic standards, as well as the organization and implementation of the federal state sanitary and epidemiological surveillance. Rospotrebnadzor issued the guidelines describing three stages for the gradual lifting of the measures starting 12 May (Downtime Lifting Guidelines).

In sum, each stage provides for the gradual lifting of the measures in a particular region depending on certain formula which includes the number of newly registered COVID-19 cases and the infection spread ratio, the number of available hospital beds, and the number of COVID-19 tests made in that region.

For example, at the first stage, individuals in small groups could be allowed to exercise and to walk outside; and small-size (up to 400 square meters) services sector organizations and non-food retail shops could be allowed to open. At the second stage, medium-size (up to 800 square meters) non-food retail shops could be allowed to open. In both stages, there should be a limitation established concerning a maximum number of people who can be present in the premises at the same time or simultaneously served visitors. At the third stage, services sector and retail organizations regardless of their sizes could be opened, as well as hotels and restaurants, provided the social distancing of 1.5 to 2 meters between tables is observed. All educational establishments could be opened during the third stage too.

Certain measures will continue apply at all stages including wearing masks in public places, public transport and in general once leaving home; self-isolation for people aged 65 or older or have health conditions which increase the severity of COVID-19; working remotely whenever possible; social distancing, and other.

Each constituency head must determine the measures applicable to a particular territory taking into account the Downtime Lifting Guidelines and the recommendations of the chief state sanitary doctor of the constituency, and the period during which these measures apply. In practice, the measures already established will continue to apply until the end of lockdown period set for the constituency. For example, the lockdown period in Moscow continues until 31 May 2020.

Importantly, the May Decree requires that employees of organizations or individual entrepreneurs whose activities are suspended (prohibited) because of the measures, must continue to be paid salaries.

Moscow Measures

The measures for Moscow are set by the Mayor of Moscow’s decree. The decree was initially issued on 5 March 2020 and since then amended several times, most recently on 7 May (Moscow Decree).

Under the Moscow Decree the measures must stay through 31 May.

In essence, the initially introduced measures remain unchanged. For example, the work of certain types of businesses associated with people visiting and gathering is suspended (prohibited) in Moscow until 31 May. Most of these businesses had been already suspended by the earlier versions of the Moscow Decree. The businesses whose work is suspended can allow into their offices limited personnel involved in (a) building (office) security and maintenance; (b) support of processes that cannot be stopped because of their technological specifics, and (c) payroll (salaries) accounting and payments. Please see our previous LawFlash for more detailed information.

The Mayor Decree now also allowed that certain industrial enterprises previously not permitted to work (have people onsite) in Moscow can commence work in Moscow subject to compliance with the specific measures. Among these enterprises are metallurgical, electrics, and optics production, furniture manufacturing, clothing manufacturing and construction companies, and certain others.

Moscow – Masks and Gloves and Further Measures

However, the Moscow Decree introduces certain new rules: Moscow implements the "mask and gloves regime." Starting 12 May, all individuals must wear masks and gloves in the Moscow public transport and taxis and while in any retail outlet or premises of any organization.

The employees and employers, who commence work from 12 May, will be required to comply with further special measures (the further measures) in addition to the existing measures (on the existing measures, see our previous LawFlash). Some of these further measures are listed below.

Employees must report to their respective employers if:

  • they or their household members experience signs and symptoms of respiratory infection or are diagnosed with COVID-19 or pneumonia;
  • they have any health conditions which increase the severity of COVID-19 (e.g., diabetes, obesity, hypertension of the 2nd type, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or bronchial asthma of the 2nd type)
  • they are pregnant.

An employee with any of the above conditions or any other serious diseases listed in the Moscow Decree or who must comply with the self-isolation in accordance with the Moscow Decree (e.g., diagnosed with COVID-19, people aged 65 or older, some other categories), must stay at their place of residence.

Employees who are allowed to attend the workplace or territory of the employer must:

  • wear individual protective gear and otherwise comply with the individual protective gear requirements established by their employer;
  • participate in medical checkups carried out by the employer; and
  • comply with a remote work regime if an employer establishes such regime.

Employers must:

  • not allow to workplaces the employees who are prohibited to attend work;
  • ensure that employees wear masks, respirators (unless an employee is working alone in a separate room), and gloves;
  • ensure social distancing between employees (including by installing the protective screens, if necessary);
  • measure temperature of employees at least once in four hours (taking into account the measurement of temperature at the time of admission to workplaces or the territory of the employer);
  • ensure that at least 10% of employees get tested for COVID-19 in the period from 12 May to 31 May and that at least 10% of employees get tested for COVID-19 every 15 days starting 1 June; and
  • ensure that employees have their blood taken for enzyme immunoassay (EIA) for COVID-19 and immunity thereto, as and when may be required by the Moscow City Health Department.

Importantly, the Mayor of Moscow announced that from 15 May 2020 a program of testing citizens of Moscow will start, using the ELISA method (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay). ELISA detects the presence or absence in one’s blood of IgM antibodies (a marker of the coronavirus infection) and IgG (a marker of immunity to the coronavirus infection).

According the Mayor of Moscow, this will allow the Moscow authorities to determine at each specific point in time exactly what proportion of people living in Moscow had been ill with the coronavirus and already acquired immunity, how many people are infected or suspected to have the coronavirus, and the actual dynamics of the coronavirus spread.

Other Constituencies’ Measures

Russia’s constituencies introduced their own measures and lockdown rules. Some utilize measures similar to those existing in Moscow including, for example, Saint-Petersburg (see a decree of the government of Saint-Petersburg) and the Moskovskaya Oblast (see a decree of the governor of Moskovskaya Oblast). But in general, the measures differ from region to region and you need to consult with local regulations to ascertain the limitations affecting your business.

Coronavirus COVID-19 Task Force

For our clients, we have formed a multidisciplinary Coronavirus COVID-19 Task Force to help guide you through the broad scope of legal issues brought on by this public health challenge. Find resources on how to cope with the post-pandemic reality on our NOW. NORMAL. NEXT. page and our COVID-19 page to help keep you on top of developments as they unfold. If you would like to receive a daily digest of all new updates to the page, please subscribe now to receive our COVID-19 alerts, and download our biweekly COVID-19 Legal Issue Compendium.

Trainee associate Valeria Gaikovich contributed to this LawFlash.

CONTACTS

We hope that you find this LawFlash useful. If you have any questions or would like more information on the issues discussed in this LawFlash, please contact the following Moscow-based lawyer of Labor and Employment practice Bela Pelman and lawyers of Corporate and Business Transactions practice Vasilisa Strizh and Valeria Gaikovich.