Then the inevitable happened. Two of his colleagues fell ill with the coronavirus, then five more, and now, according to Seryogin, more than a dozen have contracted the virus. The regional governor confirmed an epidemic at a medical station, saying that the personnel had been quarantined and that he had “set the goal of providing everyone with PPE. No matter where they go, what kind of call. “
Seryogin, who continues to work, has few illusions of security. “I know what kind of job I have. The question is not whether I am afraid of getting sick, just when it is going to happen, “he said.
Infections are increasing rapidly in Russia, the country with more than 10,000 new cases of coronavirus in the past three days, which has the highest rate of new infections in Europe.
Hotspots with hundreds of infected people have been discovered in remote oil and gas fields and regional hospitals. The mayor of Moscow has warned that up to 2% of the capital’s residents could be infected, about 250,000 people, about four times the official count. Officially, 1,451 people died of coronavirus in Russia, far fewer than in countries with similar confirmed cases, but the death rate is increasing.
“Empty beds in the ICU do not mean that there are fewer seriously ill people, these are lives that have been lost,” said Maryana Lysenko, chief medical officer of the 52nd Moscow Hospital, in a video speech calling on the Russians not to go out. during the May holidays this week.
Russian medical personnel were particularly affected. A nurse from St. Petersburg called it “the longest two months of my life”. She had left her house, where she lives with her husband and son, and stayed with a colleague because she feared that she might not be infected at work and pass it on to her family. Last month, she and her colleagues were asked to buy masks at home. “It is painful for me to see doctors ready for anything but without the support they need,” she said.
Hundreds of Russian healthcare workers have been quarantined alongside their patients, and authorities in St. Petersburg this week discovered 111 infections among paramedics in a single hospital. In Moscow, medical school students were mobilized, some telling the Moscow Times that they had been forced to fight the disease, in part to replace qualified medical staff who fell ill.
Staff from several renowned hospitals have resigned to protest the poor working conditions. Paramedics and hospital staff from four cities contacted by the Guardian have complained about a shortage of masks or the re-use of PPE.
“We are seeing massive infections among medical workers,” said Andrei Konoval, co-chair of the independent medical workers union Deystviye, of which Seryogin is also a member. “From all we have seen, hospitals seem to be one of the main vectors for the spread of the disease.”
Doctors have started counting their deceased colleagues because they believe they are neglected. A “list of memories” has been published online, which on Tuesday morning lists the names of 97 Russian doctors and four neighboring Belarusians who died of the symptoms of the disease.
Unofficial statistics raise questions about how Russia counts the number of people who have died from the disease.
The Guardian collected information this week about 150 deaths among health workers in the UK when the country had recorded more than 28,000 deaths from the disease. When Italy reported the death of 100 medical workers, the death toll in the country had just exceeded 18,200.
The Russian list contains 97 names for only 1,451 deaths from coronavirus, indicating that Russian health workers are dying at higher rates or that the total number of deaths in the country due to coronavirus may be underreported, or of them.
“We see that many of our colleagues are sick, many are dying,” said one of the doctors behind the list to a Russian news site. “And there is no attempt to count or find out in detail what is going on. That’s where the idea came from. “
The largest cities in Russia have been most affected by the virus. In St. Petersburg, 11 doctors died, including two nurses in a hospital for veterans. Another doctor at the same hospital, Marianna Zamyatina, resigned last month after complaining about the lack of PPE and the dangers of cross-contamination. Her husband had given her a welder’s mask to wear to work.
In Moscow coronavirus hospitals in Kommunarka, a nurse who resigned for working conditions said she had been ridiculed for asking for a bonus promised to medical workers on TV by Vladimir Putin: “Putin got it for you promised, let Putin pay for it personally. “
The list also revealed other areas where the death toll is high. Nine health workers are believed to have died in Dagestan, a region in southern Russia that has reported only 13 deaths from the disease.
Doctors in Dagestan, where local health workers have complained of conditions amid an “avalanche” of new infections, suspect the death toll could be much higher. A video released last month at a hospital in Derbent, Dagestan, shows nurses being treated for coronavirus symptoms on shelves usually reserved for clean sheets.
Another doctor, Daniyal Alkhasov, said he started volunteering late last month at an intensive care hospital in Khasavyurt, a city in Dagestan that local authorities ordered quarantine on Monday.
Alkhasov received a protective suit, he said, but there were no respirators and the PPE had “virtually no effect”.