Government Considers Halting All Flights, Rail Services

The Russian government is mulling a complete ban on domestic travel, both by air and rail, in the face of the COVID-19 threat, RIA Novosti reported citing a source in the cabinet.

Further restrictions on all kinds of movements across the country are also being discussed, according to the state-run news agency’s source.

From March 27 a ban on international air travel has been in effect, with the exception of special charter flights repatriating Russian citizens, so that the country will have closed all border crossings on March 30. However, no restrictions have so far been imposed on domestic air services and the country’s airlines are continuing to operate all those flights, with some of them even preparing to launch new destinations before the new IATA Summer season.

The only notable exception is Aeroflot Group’s low-cost subsidiary Pobeda Airlines, which has announced a two-month suspension of all operations from April 1. The decision was taken by Pobeda, Russia’s third-largest passenger airline – and part of the state-owned Aeroflot Group – is viewed as an indication that a complete ban on domestic air travel may soon be declared.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin announced a ‘non-working week’ from March 30. Hotel and resort reservations have been prohibited since Friday, and the mayors of Moscow and Sochi have called on Russians to opt-out of traveling to the capital and the most popular holiday resort destination during the unexpected holidays.

Rosturism, Russia’s federal tourism agency, is also advising Russians against travel. Zarina Doguzova, the agency’s head, expressed hope that, with all the measures taken against the pandemic, Russians will be able to resume travel as early as this summer.