MOSCOW, September 24 (Reuters): President Vladimir Putin urged Russians to stick to social distancing rules and said he wanted to avoid another strict lockdown on Thursday, when the daily tally of new COVID-19 cases was the highest in more than two months.
Russia's COVID-19 response centre recorded 6,595 new infections on Thursday, the highest daily count since mid-July. Moscow had 1,050 new cases, more than any other city or region in Russia.
Russia exited lockdown in early June, and many shops, businesses and the transport network in Moscow are now operating as usual, though office occupancy rates remain sharply lower.
Guidelines on social distancing remain in place, and people must wear face coverings in shops and on public transport in the Russian capital, though some flout those rules which are not rigorously enforced.
"You have to ask people to observe the necessary rules, including the mask regime," Putin said in video conference with regional governors. "Of course, this is not always comfortable for people, but falling ill is worse.
"I would really, really not like to return again to the restrictive measures we introduced this spring."
Officials in the capital have insisted there will not be another lockdown and have played down the prospect of a second wave.
The number of coronavirus patients hospitalised in Moscow each day increased by around 30% in the last week, the capital's COVID-19 response centre said on Thursday, but did not provide patient numbers.
The response centre said 149 people had died nationwide in the last 24 hours, taking the overall death toll to 19,948.
Russia's case tally of 1,128,836 is the world's fourth-highest.
Consumer health watchdog Rospotrebnadzor on Wednesday said Russians returning from abroad by plane would have to self-isolate from now on until they could produce a negative coronavirus test. Foreigners must provide a negative test to enter the country.