Thu, 16 Jul 2020

Hundreds of people attended an outdoor book fair in Moscow's Red Square on June 6, though some publishing houses decided to stay away, citing health risks amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The city's ban on public gatherings continues, but authorities gave permission to hold the annual book fair under tight restrictions.

Visitation to the bookstalls is limited to 6,000 people a day, divided into five two-hour shifts. All the shoppers had to apply for permission and receive QR codes for admittance.

Organizers implemented numerous other measures to stem the spread of the virus -- with chairs spaced 1 meter apart and temperature checks at the entrance.

Some independent publishers refused to take part because of heath concerns.

'We don't want to put our employees and our authors, as well as our readers, at risk,' said Pavel Podkosov, director general of the Alpina Non-Fiction publishing house, which lost up to 60 percent of its income due to the lockdown compared with the same period last year.

Large public events are still banned in Moscow and most lockdown restrictions will remain in place until at least June 14. The state-organized book fair was able to go ahead as Red Square is controlled by the federal government.

Russia has almost 450,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 5,500 official deaths as of June 6, the world's third-biggest number after the United States and Brazil.

The annual book fair was attended by 300,000 people last year.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AP

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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