Russian lawmakers approved legislation this week that would allow for jail sentences of up to seven years for people violating quarantine rules in response to the coronavirus. The law would also allow five-year prison sentences for “fake news” about the pandemic.
Although there is no nationwide quarantine, most regions in Russia are facing a partial lockdown to help contain the virus as the number of confirmed cases rose to 2,337 and 17 deaths on Tuesday. This is considered a very low infection rate compared to other countries, given Russia has a population of 144.5 million people.
A large number of Russians reportedly doubt the official data, including Moscow mayor and leader of the national coronavirus taskforce, Sergei Sobyanin, who has repeatedly warned that there could be many more cases than officially recorded.
Members of the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, passed legislation on Tuesday imposing jail terms of up to seven years and fines of up to two million roubles ($25,500) for anyone ignoring quarantine measures if their actions led to people dying. It is unclear how authorities would prove that someone’s flouting of the rules was directly responsible for the death of another individual.
Lawmakers also passed legislation criminalizing the spread of “intentionally false” information about life-threatening circumstances surrounding the pandemic, with those found guilty also facing fines of up to two million roubles or up to five years in prison. Legislation was also passed that would give the government the right to declare a state of national emergency over the pandemic should it be necessary.
Moscow, a city of 12 million people, went into total lockdown on Sunday. Under the lockdown, residents are only permitted to leave their homes to go to work, to shop for food or medicine, to receive emergency health care, walk pets, or take out the trash.
On Monday, authorities closed Russia’s borders as part of another new government order. The measure will be enforced at all vehicle, rail, and pedestrian checkpoints, as well as the country’s maritime borders. The Justice Ministry has also proposed suspending marriage and divorce registrations in Russia until June 1 as another preventative measure.
It emerged on Tuesday that Denis Protsenko, the head doctor at the infectious disease hospital in Moscow where patients are being treated, has tested positive with the virus. Just six days ago, he met with President Vladimir Putin at the facility where the pair shook hands, although the Russian leader protected himself with a full-body hazmat suit.