The mayor of Moscow has warned the city will run out of hospital beds next month as Russia’s coronavirus crisis escalates – despite health officials claiming infection figures are in decline.
Mayor Sergei Sobyanin urged authorities to ramp up hospital capacity, saying 80,000 beds will be needed across the country by mid-May and 30,000 in the capital alone.
Meanwhile a hospital in St Petersburg was sealed off with 700 patients and medics left stranded inside after a major coronavirus outbreak there.
The grim news unfolded despite Russia’s coronavirus response team officially reporting 4,774 new cases on Thursday – a second straight day of decline.
Russia reported 4,774 cases of coronavirus on Thursday – the second straight day the figure has fallen despite warnings that hospital beds are running out
The country also reported 42 new deaths, down significantly on 57 reported the day before amid allegations it is not being honest about the scale of its outbreak
There were 5,236 cases reported Wednesday and another 5,642 reported Tuesday.
Russia also announced another 42 deaths on Thursday, down from 57 reported the previous day.
That has led to claims that the government is not being honest about the true scale of the country’s coronavirus crisis.
A snaking queue of ambulances with suspected Covid-19 patients was filmed at a hospital in Noginsk, Moscow region.
Meanwhile medics at another hospital near Moscow called in the FSB secret service over shortages of personal protection equipment after 52 doctors were diagnosed with coronavirus.
Moscow’s authorities rushed to add more hospital beds last week, fearing that they were running out of space.
Moscow’s residents are only allowed outside to buy food or medicine nearby, receive medical treatment, walk the dog or take out the rubbish. Last week, authorities introduced a digital permit system for anyone wanting to travel by transport.
Russia’s Communications Ministry said late on Wednesday there were plans to roll out a similar system in 21 regions, requiring employers to supply lists of staff if their companies had been given dispensation to continue working despite lockdowns.
Those people would be issued digital passes on a government website, it said, adding that people would be able to apply individually for other reasons too.
A radiographer at a hospital in Demikhov city, Russia, examines chest X-rays of suspected coronavirus patients amid warning that hospital beds are running out
A member of the Russian military disinfects a hospital amid the country’s coronavirus crisis
‘All measures that could be effective must be taken. The situation remains quite tense,’ Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
The pass system has raised fears among rights advocates that authorities could use it to harvest data, such as residential addresses, which could later be leaked online or used for other purposes.
Meanwhile Russia’s most prominent coronavirus medic Denis Protsenko warned of ‘negative dynamics’, adding: ‘The number of hospital admissions is growing again.’
He spoke as it was revealed that a St Petersburg hospital has been sealed off with 440 patients and 260 doctors and nurses locked inside.
The Vreden Institute of Traumatology and Orthopedics has been compared to the Diamond Princess cruise liner which was turned into a hotbed of disease after an attempt to quarantine passengers on board early in the pandemic sickened 700.
Infected medics are being forced to work and care for patients – and they have been told there will be no respite until 15 May.
Amid the lockdown, chief medic Rashid Tikhilov fell in and his condition deteriorated so far that he was moved to a specialist infectious diseases hospital.
Russia was due to go to the polls to vote on changing the constitution Thursday, effectively allowing Putin to rule for life, but the vote has now been indefinitely delayed
Authorities have not disclosed how many are infected but one medic, Dr Dmitry Ptashnikov, said that of his 32 in patients a dozen have symptoms of coronavirus.
‘No personal protective equipment, even modern, worked,’ he warned.
Many hospitals in Russia are said to be quarantined in the same way.
At Lyubertsy hospital No 3 near Moscow medics demanded action from the FSB after 52 doctors were hit by coronavirus.
They complained of a woeful lack of protection equipment.
In Dagestan, a video shows how nurses suspected of infections were incarcerated in a laundry room.
Famous Russian opera singer Svetlana Kasyan, 35, has expressed her fear that she has lost her singing voice after surviving Covid-19.
‘What I feel now is such helplessness,’ said the star.
Senior Moscow doctor Dr Maxim Strarinsky, 56, head of the Urology Department of the War Veterans Hospital, died from coronavirus, it was announced.
Findings by Russia’s epidemiological research centre also showed that children may be more likely to spread coronavirus, despite not being badly-affected themselves.
Professor Alexander Gorelov said children remain a source of spreading Covid-19 for a longer period than adults.
An intensive care ambulance at a hospital in Vladivostok, far eastern Russia, amid the country’s coronavirus crisis
‘There are certain epidemiological particularities showing that children who overcome infection more easily, unfortunately, spread virus for longer or, in other words, stay the source of infection longer,’ he said.
Children aged between six and seven are most vulnerable to the infection, even though they fight off the disease better than adults, said Dr Gorelov, deputy head of research for Russia’s consumer and health watchdog, Rospotrebnadzor.
Thursday was also supposed to be the day that Russians voted in a referendum on amending the country’s constitution to effective allow Valdimir Putin to rule for life.
But instead Putin spent Wednesday troubleshooting one of the biggest crises of his rule – fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.
Because of the pandemic, the constitutional vote – described by opponents as a power grab – has been postponed until an unspecified future date.
So too has a military parade marking the 75th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, an historic event the former KGB officer has long used to support his narrative of a Russia that, thanks to him, is resurgent.
Putin has survived many crises before, and there is no sign that he is about to be toppled. But problems are piling up for the man who has dominated Russia since 2000.
The price of oil, the Russian economy’s lifeblood, is at its lowest level in nearly two decades, and the rouble is now one of the world’s worst performing currencies.
Gross domestic product could fall by 15% if oil prices drop below $10 per barrel, Russia’s biggest bank says.