A glove thrown to restaurateurs // Nikita Shchurenkov on business attempts to weaken the fight against COVID-19

Business does not abandon its attempts to weaken the restrictions on the operation of catering and recreation outlets that have been in force for more than a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This week, Vladimir Zhiganov, general director of the Claustrophobia network of interactive entertainment establishments, and Pavel Kovsharov, founder of Zamania entertainment parks, proposed to the Moscow Department of Entrepreneurship how not only to make life easier for businesses, but also to accelerate the pace of COVID-19 vaccination in the city. As entrepreneurs write, now the vaccination campaign is based on “intimidating the population”, and the city authorities react to every jump in the incidence rate only by strengthening control over the observance of restrictions. In the opinion of Messrs. Zhiganov and Kovsharov, officials should develop a system of incentives and provide for the vaccinated citizens for a partial or complete cancellation of restrictions. In their own establishments, entrepreneurs have already developed a bonus program for clients who will present a vaccination certificate.

The metropolitan mayor’s office, however, has its own view of the situation. According to my sources, at a meeting held this Thursday with representatives of restaurants, bars and nightlife establishments, the head of the department of trade and services, Aleksey Nemeryuk, warned entrepreneurs about the tightening of inspections and the need to comply with all requirements for both employees and guests. The most city officials can be prepared to do is to discuss the need for gloves among non-kitchen staff. As the founder of Hurma Management Group Dmitry Levitsky explains, it is impossible to control the frequency of changing gloves for employees, people often work in the same gloves all day or use reusable ones, and this measure only creates the appearance of cleanliness and safety. According to my sources, restaurateurs tried to take advantage of the situation and suggested that Mr. Nemeryuk shift penalties for violations of the sanitary regime from organizations directly to employees, but they were refused.

In a situation of an increase in the number of new cases of infection in Moscow, requests to weaken, and even more so to lift restrictions, are unlikely to meet with understanding from the city authorities. Moreover, initiatives can also turn against entrepreneurs. So, the mayor of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin, recently suggested that restaurateurs create separate zones themselves and serve only vaccinated customers. Business was skeptical about the idea, which is not surprising: so far, the share of vaccinated Russians barely exceeds 12%. Apparently, business has no choice but to be patient, wait for the end of the pandemic and, perhaps, rejoice at least the opportunity to finally take off the gloves when leaving the kitchen.

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