The locking of the coronavirus Moscow was strict and long. His end was swift and almost total.
The veterans are 90 years of age have joined president Vladimir Putin on Wednesday for a giant parade on the 75th anniversary of the Victory, as if the face masks and social distancing had never been invented.
And across the city, with the sun falling, finally, the crowds have invaded the parks, the bars and terraces of restaurants, ignoring the weeks hidden inside the infection as an unpleasant memory.
Officially, Covid-19 has been declared “retirement”. But with more than 600 000 cases detected throughout the country, some fear that such statements are intended to open the way to the political priorities of Vladimir Putin: a parade and a vote on the extension of his power.
How did the veterans have challenged the virus
“The whole country was preparing all year for the parade of victory day,” said the navy officer, retired Alexander Goncharov, after having helped the veterans of the Second world War to participate in the event postponed on may 9 by the pandemic.
He said that 28 of them, who had occupied the seats closest to the president Putin, had spent more than two weeks in a sanatorium outside Moscow in quarantine prior to the parade, with regular health controls and tests Covid.
The same day, all were covered with medals. Very few wore cover-faces.
“They were sure they would be fine. They have shaken the hand of the president without gloves or nothing, ” said Mr. Goncharov to the BBC.
“If the leader of the country does not fear, then I am sure that veterans are also confident. ”
The statistics could indicate a more cautious approach.
In April, when Mr. Putin declared that it was too risky to continue the events of 9 may, Russia detected approximately 3 500 cases of Covid each day. Currently, this figure is two times higher, although in Moscow the rate of infection has decreased.
Stores, hairdressers – even the zoo have reopened in recent weeks. The last restrictions were lifted on Tuesday, including cafes interiors, playgrounds and gymnasiums.
A day later, thousands of soldiers marched on the cobblestones of the Red Square to mark the defeat of the soviet against nazi Germany, a moment of history in which Vladimir Putin describes as “sacred.”
Hearing reduced for the big day
For this great anniversary, president Putin had wanted the leaders of the world to his side on the rostrum, pointing to his affirmation of modern Russia as a world power, while his military arsenal was a parade in front of them.
The pandemic has paid for it.
The handful of heads of State who travelled to Moscow were mostly former soviet republics. Their ranks were further depleted when two members of the delegation of the kyrgyz republic have tested positive for Covid-19, forcing the president to skip the parade.
The public, however, has defied the instructions of watching at home on television: the mass gatherings are still banned here.
Many stood on bridges and sidewalks to watch the floats roll in the city centre. Ignoring the rule of the mask mandatory, they are tight behind the barriers of the police to take pictures.
No one stepped in to break up the crowd. This event has always been designed as a boost patriotic; a day of well-being after a few difficult months, and a reminder of what is Vladimir Putin.
It was planned a day before the start of the vote on a package of constitutional reforms that could see it introduce two more times to the presidency.
Virus warnings before the vote
In a recent interview, an infectious disease specialist in Orel, southwest of Moscow, has been strongly advised of this election.
“That whoever wants to vote, vote. But there are more hospital beds, ” said Viktoria Adoneva to a local newspaper. “There will certainly be a [surge in cases]; but we will have nowhere to put them. ”
When his comments caused a national scandal, it was claimed that they were distorted, but others are okay.
“I think this vote will only contribute to the spread of the virus “, says Dr. Anton, an emergency doctor in Moscow who does not want that I use his name.
His own hospital, and it worked again normally after you have treated only the case of Covid-19 at the height of the pandemic – a period that he recalls as ” terrifying “.
“The image that they create: the decrease in the number of patients, the end of restrictions, the parade – it’s all wonderful, as if there was no problem. But there are problems, ” explains Anton.
A week of voting
Vladimir Putin himself argues that the constitutional reform allowing him to stand again is a vote for stability, eliminating the speculation of troubling on who would succeed him in 2024.
For others, it captures a “window of opportunity” policy to ensure that it remains in power, caught between a “victory” apparent on the virus, and before that the economic effects of the pandemic are fully felt.
In Moscow, those who wish to participate can vote online.
This is risky, according to observers, in terms of rigging the votes, but safer physically in the event of a pandemic. For those who present in person, voting was spread over a week.
“The problem is that everyone has stopped to think about the coronavirus; they think it is finished,” worries Dr. Anton.
After all, their president – who spent a few months hidden in his home, holding video conferences – now walks without a mask and without a hand-shake.
“People are more and more closer to each other in public transport and everywhere,” warns the doctor. “The risk of a new epidemic is very high. “