Reports of infected medical workers are emerging almost daily as Russia copes with the virus. Last week alone, more than 200 doctors in Moscow and St. Petersburg were reported to have it, with some turning to social media to make their plight known, The Associated Press reported.
It’s unclear how many Russian doctors and nurses overall have been infected. The Health Ministry did not respond to requests for comment but news reports from a dozen regions in the past two weeks suggest at least 450 medical workers have had COVID-19, with 11 doctors and five nurses dying.
The number is likely to be much higher because hospital officials often hide such infections, said Semyon Galperin, head of the Doctors Defense League.
“I know of cases of hospital administrations not reporting medics getting infected because it may lead to sealing off the facility for quarantine and halting its operations,” Galperin told The Associated Press.
The number of coronavirus cases in Russia has risen quickly to more than 87,000 with nearly 800 deaths, although some in the West question the accuracy of those reports. Most of Russia’s big cities have been locked down since March 30 under measures set to expire Thursday.
Of 285 virus hot spots in the country, medical facilities account for more than half, said Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova.
As cases rise, widespread shortages of personal protective equipment and questionable infection control procedures are becoming the biggest challenges in Russia. The Kremlin insists there are only isolated shortages, AP adds.
“We only had regular surgical gowns, masks, gloves,” Ptashnikov told the AP. “Later we received proper protective equipment, but it was, unfortunately, a bit too late.″
Since the outbreak began, Russian health officials have been dividing hospitals into those treating coronavirus patients and those that aren’t. In Moscow, which has almost 52% of confirmed cases, 29 hospitals out of almost 100 have been repurposed and 24 more are being prepared. In St. Petersburg, 12 hospitals out of more than 30 are being converted.
The hospitals get protective gear, and wards with virus patients are divided into “dirty” and “clean” zones, with patients and staff tested regularly, AP notes.