“The coronavirus cannot be kept at bay with half-measures. It is important to break the chain of transmission”
The southern Russian region of Chechnya on Friday became the first to introduce a night curfew to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, despite having reported only a dozen confirmed cases.
Rights activists have raised concerns over how the lockdown measures will be enforced in the republic, where violent human rights abuses are reported on a regular basis. Chechen authorities deny those allegations.
The Muslim-majority republic said it was banning the movement of people and vehicles between 8 pm and 8 am and announced it would close its borders from April 5, suspending road, rail and air transport links with the rest of Russia.
"The coronavirus cannot be kept at bay with half-measures. It is important to break the chain of transmission," Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya's Kremlin-backed leader, said in a statement.
Chechnya, along with almost all other Russian regions, has introduced strict quarantine measures in recent days, closing restaurants, sports facilities and other venues, and telling residents to stay at home.
Videos surfaced on social media this week showing groups of men in black carrying plastic batons, allegedly patrolling neighbourhoods to enforce the new quarantine measures.
"In lots of places they (the police), following Kadyrov's orders, have started detaining everyone who happens to be outside... It's some sort of idiocy to detain people together in one room during a quarantine regime," Oleg Orlov, a member of human rights group Memorial, said.
Speaking on a television show on Monday, Kadyrov denied that any force was being used against violators of the new rules, TASS news agency reported.
One resident said Grozny, the regional capital, was awash with law enforcement officers this week and that traffic police had stopped her multiple times when she was driving, asking to see the pass that allows her to travel to work rather than self-isolate at home.
"So many policemen. I remember the war, it was pretty much the same back then, a checkpoint every metre," the woman, who asked not to be named, said, referring to wars fought by Moscow against separatists in the region over a decade ago.
Russia has reported 4,149 confirmed cases of the virus nationwide, of which 12 were reported in Chechnya. On Thursday, Kadyrov said that 17,114 people were currently in self-isolation after returning to the republic from other areas.