Shopping malls of indignation: strict anti-COVID-19 measures taken in Bashkiria

Access to many commercial institutions has been restricted in Bashkiria. Only vaccinated people or those who recovered from the disease may enter

The introduction of anti-coronavirus restrictions in Bashkortostan has caused citizens’ indignation. The peak of the discontent was reached after a ban on visiting shopping malls. People argued with security workers and even tried to get through by force at the entrance. There have been found more inventive approaches — Ufa citizens managed to go shopping thanks to QR codes on a packet of potato crisps and utility bills. While somebody didn’t manage to get home on coaches. Read more in Realnoe Vremya’s report about the bans and people’s answers.

With potato crisp QR code to shopping mall

Anti-COVID-19 norms in Bashkortostan are one of the strictest in the country. Experts of the Agency for Political and Economic Communications included the republic in the top 10 regions with the most stringent measures against coronavirus. Bashkiria ranks sixth.

The next stage of restrictions came into force on 18 October. One can go to beauty salons, spas and massage rooms, sunrooms, banyas, saunas, gyms, swimming pools only with a certificate about vaccination against COVID-19 or a certificate about recovering from coronavirus in the last six months or a negative PCR test. The same applies to entering public catering organisations (with 50 and more seats). A vaccination certificate or a certificate about the disease one recovered in the last six months is required.

Earlier, the second stage of measures was taken on 12 October, including the most noticeable one — the ban on entering shopping malls for unvaccinated people. Security workers now have to verify QR codes. However, as Ufa citizens notice, the verification at the entrance often turns into formality. Ufa journalist Timur Davletov did a social experiment. He tried to enter shopping malls with QR codes from a packet of potato crisps and utility bills. Security workers let the journalist in saying that their task was to check the presence of codes. They don’t have the expertise to assess their correctness.

After the experiment on the access to shopping malls, some angry Ufa citizens started to write to Timur Davletov privately expressing their indignation because he had revealed their way of entering buildings of shopping malls. However, not all people demonstrated inventiveness. There have appeared videos on the Internet where some tried to enter shopping malls by force.

Doctor of Juridical Sciences Albert Kurmanov told Realnoe Vremya that now we are in the process of forming the practice:

“In the order of the governor we are talking about, the mechanism of implementation of this order isn’t spelt out. It reads that services in the shopping mall aren’t provided. But how to do it? Some work, a purchase of products can be considered a service. It doesn’t have a direct ban on being in shopping malls. The responsibility has been shifted to the administration of shopping malls, not entrepreneurs who provide services. From a legal point of view, practice is gained here. There are restrictions on being in the shopping mall. Nobody forces people to show the passport, here the concepts are confused. If you don’t want to show documents to a security worker, don’t go there. But if you decided to go in, the security worker must be sure you can be in the shopping mall to get some services.”

Violations of anti-coronavirus restrictions are punished strictly. One of the shopping centres in Ishimbay where inspectors didn’t find any control at the entrance was closed for five days, while those responsible were fined. According to chief expert of the local office of Russia’s consumer rights protection watchdog in Ishimbay Svetlana Pudovkina, a fine is envisaged for violating the sanitary rules: 15,000-40,000 rubles for citizens, 50,000-100,000 rubles for officials, 100,000-300,000 rubles for legal entities.

You cannot go far without vaccination certificate

Tens of people who hadn’t been vaccinated did not manage to travel from Ufa’s bus station on 12 October. Cashiers had to refuse to sell her bus tickets to other cities of the republic.

“I could not buy a ticket yesterday. There are terminals, I went there, it says allegedly there aren’t tickets. They did it so that a ticket without a certificate cannot be bought. Empty buses left the station,” says Flida Zaynullina.

A video from Sterlitamak went viral on 17 October where two police officers arrested a pensioner who tried to get on the bus without a QR code. According to the press service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Bashkiria, the woman was taken to the police station for an enquiry where she was submitted a report on disobedience to a police officer. People reacted to the video differently. Somebody considered the police officers’ actions excessive, while some think that the old woman was saved from infection this way.

“Even though she is wrong, can an old woman be treated this way? She is somebody’s mum! They made the old lady cry! Shame on the police! They take advantage of the woman’s helplessness! I wonder, are you going to work this way with authoritative criminals?” Larisa Morozova is indignant.

“In this situation, it is the fault of a person who sold the ticket to the old lady without a certificate. She paid money! Why is nobody talking about it? If a ticket was sold, might she go, while the cashier or conductor must be responsible,” offers Svetlana Vasilyeva.

“Orders aren’t issued without a reason. What impeded the old lady from being vaccinated? It is mandatory at her age. Precisely pensioners are in the risk group — many then end up in hospitals and die. Why didn’t her children explain to her that vaccination is safe. My parents were vaccinated, I am calm,” writes Marsel Akhmadeyev.

As a result of the restrictions, the demand for private transport has increased in the last days, much more options in popular car-sharing apps and on social media have appeared.

Governor of Bashkortostan Rady Khabirov reminded the citizens who don’t like the new restrictions about the necessity of the measures that are taken and following the rules.

“Unfortunately, not all people understand the importance and meaning of these norms. Of course, we should persuade people. At the same time, I want to say that the authorities have the power because if they made a decision, they must follow this decision using all measures of public administration and coercion. Our police officers have started to be accused of being cruel, they have arrested a man, didn’t let the woman use a couch because everybody must follow these rules. Owners of the shopping mall in Ishimbay claimed they wouldn’t follow the rules. If they don’t, it means we will close the mall. We are living in a tough time. The number of patients is growing, people are dying. This is why we must fight this and be sure of our correctness, what we are doing,” the head of the region noted.

Emil Ziyangirov

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