By Polina Nikolskaya MOSCOW (Reuters) – Some Russian regions are proposing to relax COVID-19 restrictions, such as mandatory mask wear and other incentives for Russians receiving homegrown vaccine. Russia, which has the fourth highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world, began large-scale inoculations with its Sputnik V vaccine last month and President Vladimir Putin has said the program should be available to all Russians la next week. On Thursday, the governor of the Far East Sakhalin region proposed distributing badges to people who received the vaccine, allowing them to stop wearing face masks. Companies such as hairdressers or fishing plants could also be officially declared “green zones” once all their personnel have been hit, said the governor, Valery Limarenko. “We have to get back to life as quickly as possible,” he said on social media. In Moscow, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has told students and retirees that their social cards, which give them free or cheaper public transportation but were frozen during the pandemic, will be unlocked once they have the vaccine. Moscow residents say the number of people signing up for the vaccine is increasing, after having been slow just a few weeks ago. Pavel, a 34-year-old Muscovite, told Reuters that there was no queue when he arrived for his first injection of the two-dose vaccine in late December, but that the clinic was full when he returned for the second injection on Wednesday. Russia reported 24,763 new cases of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours on Thursday, bringing the national count to nearly 3.5 million since the pandemic began. The death toll stands at 63,940 people.
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