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18 Apr, 2020 10:59

Control goes automatic: Manned checking of digital passes in Moscow to be replaced by electronic systems

Control goes automatic: Manned checking of digital passes in Moscow to be replaced by electronic systems

Moscow's roll-out of digital passes to limit non-essential travel had a rocky start this week. Now the city has announced the checks will remain in place, but in automatic form.

This week the Russian capital introduced ‘digital passes’ to reduce travel in the city and thus slow the spread of Covid-19. Non-essential workers were limited to two trips a week, and everyone taking a ride had to apply for a pass – a string of numbers and letters – beforehand.

But enforcement of the new measures didn’t get off to a smooth start. Long queues of commuters formed at the entrances of Moscow Metro, the city's most-popular public transit system, as police checking their permits couldn't handle the load. Since blanket screening obviously did the opposite of what it was intended to do, it was replaced with random checks.

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On Saturday, Mayor Sergey Sobyanin announced new rules on how the digital passes system will work, with less leeway for cheaters to game it. Starting next Wednesday, Moscow's public transport will stop using pre-paid tickets and will only accept numbered plastic travel cards. When applying for a digital pass, the number of the card must be submitted. Cards not put on the green list will be rejected at the gates.

The mayor also authorized the use of city CCTV cameras, which track traffic violations, to automatically check motorists’ travel permits – or at least to see if the car plates correspond to issued digital passes. Police roadblocks at entrances to the city to screen incoming traffic caused congestion earlier this week, angering many travelers.

Moscow has been the part of Russia hit hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic. As of Saturday morning, the capital accounts for 20,754 identified cases – more than half of the country’s total. There have been 148 recorded Covid-19 fatalities in Moscow. Authorities said the introduction of travel permits has kept roughly 500,000 extra people in their homes.

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