The Russian government is no longer recognizing corrective eyewear as essential products that should not fall under a nationwide retail lockdown. It has ordered all eyewear stores in the country to be shut down at least for one week from Monday, March 30. 

While they were excluded from a new list published on the government’s website on March 29, both eyeglasses and contact lenses had been included in a list of essential goods published on March 27. This would have allowed opticians to continue operations during the one-week ban announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin in order to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country. Under the lockdown, all stores selling non-essential goods in Russia must remain closed until April 3, and the time of the retail lockdown could be extended. 

Russian eyewear retailers described situation as difficult, since every day the restrictive measures could change for better or worse, commented a Russian newspaper, MK. Some retailers have begun considering an online delivery system, but online sales are not common in the Russian eyewear market, MK said. 

The process is easier for online retailers that started to do business online before setting up brick-and-mortar stores. One of them is Harry Cooper, a company based in Moscow. A director of the company pointed out, however, that customers are reluctant to choose a pair of glasses without trying them on first. 

There is already some speculation about possible bankruptcies in the retail sector at large if the lockdown persists. The government has ordered that the companies should keep paying salaries to their employees, and it is not clear whether the government will reimburse them even partially, as in some Western European countries. The Russian government has decided in principle on a bailout package of $5 billion but has not yet decided how it should be allocated.