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22 Mar, 2020 11:06

Moscow metro 'will operate in ANY scenario, it cannot stop', mayor says amid coronavirus speculation

Moscow metro 'will operate in ANY scenario, it cannot stop', mayor says amid coronavirus speculation

Despite the Covid-19 outbreak, Moscow authorities will not shut the city's most used public transit system, the metro. That's according to the mayor who dismissed rumors to the contrary as "nonsense and stupidity."

"The metro will work in any scenario," Sergey Sobyanin told the news channel Rossiya 1. He was responding to online rumors that a total shutdown of the system was imminent to curb the spread of the Covid-19 infection.

Before the pandemic, Moscow's metro was used daily by some 9 million passengers. Last week, when the Russian capital shut many public venues and employers were advised to allow workers do their jobs from home, where possible, numbers dropped by some 30 percent.

Sobyanin said that even if there were no need to transport people, the underground trains would still have to be operated.

"Technologically the metro was built in a way that the trains need to run regularly and pump the air to keep all the networks in proper condition," he explained. If they were stopped, reopening the system would take six months, he said.

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Moscow is working hard on preparations to fight the pandemic, and the mayor described some of the measures in the interview. One crucial task is to set up equipment and personnel for makeshift labs, which could be used to mass-test patients for the infection, should the need arise.

The city is also building a new hospital, with the capacity to treat up to 600 patients with the virus. Photos from the construction site amused many Russians this week after they showed Soviet-kitsch motivational posters with slogans like "Together we can crush corona" and one featuring the mayor pointing a finger at the construction workers, captioned "builders! every minute counts." 

The metro, which poses an obvious risk when it comes to spreading the disease, has been disinfecting stations and tunnels each night in an attempt to limit the danger.

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