The Russian capital, Moscow, woke up to a lockdown obliging most of its 13 million residents to stay home, and many other regions of the vast country quickly followed suit to stem the spread of the new coronavirus.
A stern-looking President Vladimir Putin warned his envoys in Russia's far-flung regions that they will be personally responsible for the availability of beds, ventilators and other key equipment.
"We have managed to win time and slow down an explosive spread of the disease in the previous weeks, and we need to use that time reserve to the full," Putin said.
Russia so far has been relatively spared by the outbreak, with 1836 confirmed cases and nine deaths, but the number of people testing positive has risen quickly in recent days and authorities are bracing for the worst.
Putin has declared that only people employed by essential sectors should work this week, leaving it to regional authorities to spell out the details.
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Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin followed up by ordering Muscovites to stay home starting today except for medical emergencies and runs to nearby shops.
He said the city will issue special passes for those who need to keep working and track all others with electronic surveillance.
"We will steadily tighten controls," Sobyanin told a Cabinet meeting. "I hope that by the week's end we will have information systems allowing us to fully control citizens' movements and prevent possible violations."
Tomorrow, the Russian Parliament is scheduled to approve a bill that imposes prison terms of up to seven years and fines of up to 2 million rubles (US$25,000) — a huge sum in a country where an average monthly salary hovers around US$500 — on violators of the lockdown.
Moscow has a sprawling system of surveillance cameras complete with facial recognition technology, which were tested during anti-Kremlin rallies last year to track down protesters.
City authorities have also used cellphone location data from mobile providers to monitor those who were ordered to self-quarantine for two weeks after arriving from abroad.
Russia took early steps to counter the outbreak, closing the borders with China and then barring access to Chinese citizens last month when China was still the world's hottest coronavirus spot.
Authorities followed up by screening arrivals from Italy, France, Spain and other countries worst-affected by the outbreak, and obliging them to self-quarantine.
Last week Russia cut all international commercial flights and finally fully closed its borders effective today, with the exception of diplomats, truck drivers and a few other categories.
Russian officials said those measures helped slow down the spread of Covid-19, but acknowledged that the disease is accelerating rapidly and relatively low numbers of confirmed cases could be explained by insufficient screening.
Authorities have converted several hospitals in Moscow to treat coronavirus patients and thousands of construction workers laboured around the clock at a construction site on Moscow's outskirts to build a new specialised hospital to be ready in a few weeks.
The Defence Ministry also launched a massive effort to build 16 hospitals across the country in a matter of weeks. Last week, the military also conducted massive drills across Russia to disinfect and quarantine broad areas.
Despite those efforts, many in Russia worry that the nation's underfunded healthcare system that just recently underwent massive cuts could be easily overwhelmed by the crisis.