Abkhazia begins Covid-19 vaccination amid rising cases
Vaccination against coronavirus with the Russian Sputnik V vaccine has begun in Abkhazia. With the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, officials fear that the situation may further worsen with the beginning of the tourist season and the arrival of thousands of Russian tourists who will not be required to undergo PCR testing or present vaccination certificates upon arrival to Abkhazia.
On May 14, a total of 14 people received the first shot of vaccine in Abkhazia. Vaccines are currently available for all residents of Abkhazia, and those wishing to register for vaccination should contact Sukhumi city polyclinic and book a day to get the first shot of Sputnik V. However, so far only a few dozen people have registered to get vaccinated.
On May 13, just a day before the launching of the vaccination program, the Minister of Health of Abkhazia Tamaz Tsakhnakia was dismissed. The official reason was not named, however, over the past six months, rumors about her removal from the office amidst Tsakhnakia’s inability to properly handle deteriorating epidemiological situation have been actively discussed in Abkhazia.
Nevertheless, the presidential administration chose not to address the rumors. Upon Tsakhnakia’s parting, the president awarded her with the 3rd degree Order of Honor and Glory. Eduard Butba, a physician and manager, who has lived and worked in Moscow for the last decade has been appointed as the new minister of health of Abkhazia.
As of May 14, 14,918 cases of coronavirus infection have been recorded in Abkhazia, 224 people have died, and 13 868 have recovered. The population of Abkhazia currently stands at 250,000 people.
In the past two weeks, there has been a rapid increase in the number of cases of COVID-19 in Abkhazia, and with approximately 40 cases registered per day, the number has already doubled since March. The hospitals in Abkhazia are overcrowded with patients with confirmed cases of Covid-19.
With the tourist season approaching, experts warn of the growing risk of a new wave of coronavirus in Abkhazia. The main flow of tourists comes from Russia, and, as per the new regulations, they will no longer be required to undergo PCR testing or present a vaccine certificate upon entering Abkhazia.
Perhaps that is why during the first 10 days of May which were declared a weekend in Russia, Abkhazia hosted a record number of tourists – resorts, hotels and the private sector were 80% booked during this period.
An even greater flow of Russian tourists is expected in the summer. As a side effect, a sharp increase in the number of coronavirus infections is possible. However, should this prognosis come true, the local healthcare system, which is already at its breaking point, will not be able to cope.
However, should this occur, an agreement with Moscow will come into force, and Russian doctors will come to the rescue. A Russian field hospital has already operated once in Sukhum, for several months back in 2020.