Russia currently has 1,836 reported cases of COVID-19, with 212 new cases registered in the capital overnight. 8 people have died so far. Until now, the country had seemingly kept the pandemic at bay, though there are speculations that the actual number of cases is much higher than reported. Over the past few days, the Kremlin has introduced new measures to curb the infection rate in Moscow:

Other than for emergency medical reasons or work obligations, residents will be allowed to walk outside their homes only to visit their nearest food store or pharmacy, to take out trash, or to take pet animals within 100 meters of their buildings. While outside, people will be required to maintain a distance of at least 1.5 meters from others.

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The new measures are, in part, a response to the population’s lax attitude to self-isolation and social distancing. It appears that the Bolshoi’s prima ballerina Evgenia Obraztsova is among the people ignoring the authorities’ initial advice to stay home and avoid public gatherings.

Obraztsova posted a series of photos and videos from a church service she attended in her Instagram stories. One of the photos is captioned: “Church is the safest place”. The stories also featured a photo of Obraztsova taking her children to a public playground. Obraztsova has over 143,000 followers on Instagram.

Notably, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, the head of Russian Orthodox Church, has encouraged worshippers to self-isolate and pray from their homes in a recent statement.

Obraztsova is not the only one who believes that church is the safest space during a pandemic. Earlier this month, worshippers lined up at St Petersburg’s Kazan Cathedral for a chance to kiss a glass case containing a relic associated with John the Baptist, recently flown in from Jerusalem. The case was wiped with a cloth after each kiss, but not disinfected, which did not deter hundreds of worshippers, many of them pensioners.

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UPDATE (4 April 2020): several days later, Obraztsova doubled down on her denial of COVID-19 in an instagram live conversation with her fans.

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