S. Ossetian officials turn to Russia for help following coronavirus outbreak
A sharp increase in the number of cases of coronavirus, already in the hundreds, has South Ossetian officials turning to Russia for help.
The president, the head of the government and many officials have fallen ill.
At the request of the South Ossetian authorities, Russia has set up a field hospital in Tskhinvali. The reason for the outbreak is believed to be the opening of the border with Russia and the inability of the healthcare system to cope.
According to South Ossetian authorities, since the start of the pandemic, the number of people infected with coronavirus has reached 670 people. Of these, 580 people fell ill after the lifting of restrictions on the border with Russia on September 15.
As of October 28, the total number of deaths from coronavirus during the pandemic has reached six people.
Unofficial data has it that the number of people infected with coronavirus in the republic is much higher and are in self-isolation, while seriously ill patients are hospitalized in the infectious diseases hospital.
Pharmacies lack medicines and protective equipment, medical masks and antiseptic solutions. Drug prices have skyrocketed, for example, prices for medical disposable masks range from 25 to 40 rubles (30-50 cents) apiece. To get these goods, many turn to their relatives in North Ossetia for help.
Due to the critical situation, President Anatoly Bibilov turned to Russia for help, from where a mobile military field hospital has been set up.
The multidisciplinary field hospital was deployed at the local stadium, and is designed for 150 beds.
About 150 servicemen will be engaged in medical and diagnostic measures, at their disposal are artificial lung ventilation devices, monitors for intensive observation of patients, and X-ray machines.
COVID-19 has been found in the leaders of South Ossetia – the president, the acting prime minister, the speaker of parliament and his deputies, and MPs.
The first of the civil servants to be infected with the coronavirus was the press secretary of the President Dina Gassieva – she felt unwell immediately after returning from a trip to Vladikavkaz.
The most critical situation is in the Tskhinvali region.
“There are 14 confirmed cases, they are undergoing outpatient treatment, the disease is mild. We have significantly more people in self-isolation. They do tests, and the number of patients can change every day. We are monitoring the condition of patients. We have a problem with medical staff, because the doctors themselves got sick, but we are still coping,” said Tatyana Tibilova, head of the Dmenis medical outpatient clinic.
The city hospital in Kvaisa is also overcrowded. According to head physician Ulyana Tskhovrebova, there is an acute shortage of specialists and medicines:
“They have only three doctors for the entire hospital. We have a lot of patients, some are of moderate severity, we put them in the hospital. Yesterday, three people in severe condition were sent to Tskhinvali hospital.
Why the hope for a COVID oasis failed
Until mid-September, South Ossetia had managed to avoid a massive outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic thanks to timely measures taken – the closure of the border with Russia and Georgia and the introduction of a two-week quarantine for all residents of the republic arriving from Russia.
True, at that time the restrictive measures were not perceived positively by everyone; some opposition politicians began to criticize the president and accuse the authorities of excessive tightening of security measures.
The closure of the border with Russia was especially difficult for the inhabitants of South Ossetia. Only freight transport was allowed into North Ossetia.
Russia lifted restrictions on the Russian-South Ossetian border after President Bibilov’s appeal to Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.
However, given the existing vulnerabilities in local health care, it was not possible to avoid a massive outbreak of the epidemic. Since the opening of the border, dozens of new cases of COVID-19 infection are detected daily.
“The Ministry of Health had time to prepare – we were safe for six months, but local medicine failed to carry out prophylactic work and cannot adequately withstand the pandemic. It was possible to invite in advance experts from North Ossetia, who would already have experience in the ‘red zone’, said former deputy of the South Ossetian parliament Roland Kelekhsaev.
As a result, the president was once again forced to appeal to Russia for help – this time for specialists and medical equipment.
Roladn Kelekhsaev also pins hopes for improving the situation on Russian doctors.
“The situation, of course, has become more complicated since the opening of the road. The arrival of Russian doctors and the deployment of a military medical hospital is good, because our doctors will not be able to cope with the situation on their own. I think the president appealed to Russia in a timely manner and the situation will be stabilized,” Kelekhsaev told JAMnews.
He believes that quarantine should be introduced in the republic.
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