Coronavirus outbreak in Abkhazia following influx of Russian tourists
The Abkhaz ministry of health has asked for help following a sudden outbreak of coronavirus following an influx of Russian tourists.
In just one day on August 16, a total of 26 cases of COVID-19 were reported in Abkhazia, three times the previous daily “record”. In total there have been 189 cases of coronavirus in Abkhaiza, out of which three people have died, and 69 have recovered.
Abkhazia opened its border with Russia on August 1. The decision was taken somewhat unexpectedly, as local residents began protesting, demanding the opening of the Russian border.
Russian tourism is the main source of income for most of its inhabitants, as well as for the economy.
The borders were opened without any restrictions, not even the need for a simple document showing the absence of the coronavirus. Within the first three days more than 30,000 Russian tourists travelled to Abkhazia.
According to official figures, by August 17 almost half a million tourists from Russia had arrived to vacation in the republic.
Volunteers needed, doctors can’t cope with the flood of cases
The Abkhazia ministry of health has called on all the inhabitants of Abkhazia to volunteer in hospitals in Gudauta, where patients with coronavirus are treated.
“The medical workers have been working overtime since the start of the pandemic. They are getting tired and sick. There is simply not enough staff, so the number of sick citizens has risen sharply. In the Covid-19 hospital in Gudauta there is a lack of junior staff, particularly orderlies”, stated the ministry of health in their announcement.
Fired for ‘panicking’
“It’s a shame that during all the work in the hospitals we keep hearing criticism, reproach, and accusations. Very few people have offered to help the medical workers. But they need it. Physically. The staff are exhausted”, emphasised the ministry of health.
Doctors in Abkhazia had warned that unrestricted opening of the border would lead to a rise in cases.
Deputy minister of health Alkhas Konjaria stated that “the healthcare system will be smothered when the border opens”, and many medical workers agreed with him.
One of their main worries is exactly the fact that there isn’t enough staff. In Abkhazia there is a limited number of intensivists, infectious disease specialists, and even general practitioners. If there is a mass outbreak, there simply will not be anyone to treat the patients, say the doctors.
However, prime minister Alexander Ankvab, sharply criticised the doctors’ statement, calling them “alarmists”, and suggesting they should be fired.
Deputy minister of health Alkhas Konjaria, who had made the announcement, was made to resign.
Fears of a new coronavirus outbreak were once again expressed during a meeting of the ministry with the head doctors of all the local hospitals, which took place after the border was reopened:
“Even before the border was opened we were in the middle of an outbreak, and the hospital in Gudauta was starting to fill up. Every day there were about 8 to 10 new cases, and we could tell already at that point that dealing with so many new cases was going to be extremely difficult”.
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