Russia, coronavirus: suspiciously low mortality, soaring infections– and a very large number of dead doctors. Why?
Coronavirus is rapidly spreading throughout Russia. In the last week, a new record for the number of new cases was recorded every day.
In just one day Russia reported 11,231 new cases.
As of May 8, the country is now fifth in the world in terms of infections, with a total of 177,160 cases.
But experts are confused by the mismatch of the number of deaths and the huge increase in infections.
According to official figures, as of May 8, 1,625 people died. This means about 11 deaths per million.
At the same time, in countries that are also very affected by the pandemic, this figure is incomparably higher: in the USA – 228, in Italy 495, and in Spain 558 people per one million of the population.
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There is another abnormal figure – a very high mortality rate for doctors.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the death of 113 health workers has been confirmed, out of a total of 1,625 dead.
In the UK and Italy, there are just over 100 dead physicians for more than 30,000 deaths from the coronavirus.
Russian doctors have created a website called Memory List [Spisok Pamyati] where the names of doctors who have died during the coronavirus crisis are entered.
Fighting coronavirus – in a welding mask
The mayor of Moscow, the main focus of the infection, warned that about two percent of the city’s inhabitants, with a population of about 15 million, could be infected.
The main sources of the spread of coronavirus in Russia were: churches, military units, workers’ dormitories in remote oil and gas mines and … hospitals.
“These were the two longest months of my life,” says a nurse from St. Petersburg. “I lived with a colleague so as not to infect my husband and son if I got sick. At some point, the masks ran out in our hospital, and the management asked us to bring our own from home.”
In just one hospital in St. Petersburg, there are more than 115 doctors in quarantine. Similar messages have come from several other major cities.
Hospitals are turning into foci of infection because there is an acute shortage of protective equipment everywhere.
The representative of the independent trade union of physicians “Action” from the city of Oryol, Dmitry Seregin, claims that until recently, ambulance teams went to calls without any masks or gloves.
Then the inevitable happened – seven of his colleagues became infected.
“I have no illusions that I myself will become infected – it is only a matter of time,” says Seregin.
“Putin promised – let him pay you”
Many doctors are not accepting such conditions.
A doctor from St. Petersburg, Marina Zamyatina, quit after she had to go to work in a welder mask, which her husband convinced her to take in.
A nurse who quit the Kommunarka main infectious diseases hospital in Moscow said:
“We worked for 2-3 days only with sleep breaks. Shifts in the infected area lasted 10-12 hours – in order to change protective equipment less often.
“For a month of such work, I was paid 23 thousand rubles (about 300 euros). And when I asked about the bonus that Putin promised, they answered me: ‘Putin promised, you’ll get it from him.’”
Russian social networks are filled with calls to raise money for doctors working with patients with coronavirus. The main need is masks, protective suits. They also collect money for food for medical staff at their shifts.
It turned out that doctors were required to work for several days – but they were not fed.
In the small town of Rubtsovsk in Siberia, doctors wrote a general request to the local authorities with a request to help and arrange meals for them. They were told that in the city budget there is money only for the repair of damaged sewer pipes.
Medical students in the most dangerous jobs threatened with expulsion
The authorities are trying to make up for the shortage of doctors in hospitals working with coronavirus at the expense of students of medical universities. Such messages come from Moscow and St. Petersburg, but not only – the same thing is happening in the provinces.
Undergraduate students are told that they will “go through their internships” in this way, and those who refuse will not be able to finish their studies.
Not all students agree with this practice. In Moscow, a group of students of the First Medical Academy created a demanding to stop the blackmail and provide students with full legal clearance for work in COVID-19 clinics.
Can the statistics be trusted?
RFE/RL journalists talked with a volunteer who helps doctors in Moscow’s largest 52nd hospital.
Ilya Kovalev said that the ambulances deliver only those patients to the hospital who, in fact, can no longer breathe.
“Doctors in many hospitals say that in Russia in fact 7-10 times more people are dying every day from the coronavirus than it is written in statistics.”
“My close friend’s grandmother died. They wrote that she died because of heart problems. But her heart would not have bothered her at all if she had not had bilateral pneumonia, which caused a heart attack. Her lungs were almost completely destroyed by the coronavirus.”