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Moscow has ordered citizens to self-isolate starting Monday, despite the Russian government’s claims that the country is not facing a coronavirus epidemic.

Mayor Sergei Sobyanin announced that local officials will institute a system of special passes that will allow people to leave their homes.

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Russian citizens, some of them wearing face masks, on a platform after arriving by a special train from Ukraine in Moscow on Saturday. (AP Photo)

Possible reasons to leave home, according to the officials, will include: seeking emergency medical help, compulsory travel to work, shopping at the “nearest” pharmacy or food shop, walking pets “no more than 100 meters [about 110 yards] from the house” and taking out household garbage.

The government will require people to keep a social distance of about 5 feet from each other.

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“In the coming days – after carrying out technical and organizational measures – it will be possible to leave if there is a special pass issued in the manner established by the Moscow government,” the mayor said in a statement posted on his website Sunday.

“Gradually, but steadily, we will tighten the control necessary in this situation.”

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Sobyanin added that self-isolation would not prohibit migration into or out of the city.

The move came days after Sobyanin, an ally of President Vladimir Putin, said the number of coronavirus cases in the city far exceeded the official numbers. He made those remarks while Putin visited a hospital on the outskirts of the city.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, wearing a protective suit as he entered a hall during his visit to a hospital for coronavirus patients in Kommunarka settlement, outside Moscow, last week. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, wearing a protective suit as he entered a hall during his visit to a hospital for coronavirus patients in Kommunarka settlement, outside Moscow, last week. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

“A serious situation is unfolding,” Sobyanin told Putin, as Reuters reported. He said limited testing was underway and “in reality, there are significantly more sick people.”

On Friday, a Kremlin spokesman stressed that there was “de facto no epidemic” in Russia, favorably comparing Russia’s situation to that of Europe.

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Moscow has been the hotspot of Russian coronavirus cases, with 1,014 confirmed cases and 6 deaths, investigators said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.