When Russia's coronavirus outbreak began to spike in March, the country turned to some familiar tactics: increased testing, border closures, lockdowns, quarantines. In Moscow, around 50 people have been under a police-guarded quarantine at the Mayak hostel for over a month, after one resident tested positive for COVID-19.
The residents are mainly low-paid, out-of-town workers. They say the hostel, which was never that comfortable before the quarantine, is now just plain dangerous.
One resident who tested positive for COVID-19 said she was told to expect “a visit from the doctor,” but “nobody came.” Instead, she's still inside the hostel, sharing a kitchen and toilet with healthy residents.
“It’s unsanitary at the basic level. All the facilities are shared,” said Yekaterina, who is 7 months pregnant. “I am scared. I am pregnant. Please let me leave.”
The situation got even worse when the water was shut off for a number of days.
But the Mayak hostel is not an isolated case. Russia may seem well-suited to execute these kinds of sweeping measures. But poorly implemented quarantines have been making the situation worse across the country, and the rate of infection is still going up.
Remote oil and gas installations have become breeding grounds for the virus. In April, workers at a quarantined gas field in Siberia angrily protested a lack of personal protection gear and social distancing.
One-third of the 10,000 workers there have now tested positive for coronavirus, making it one of Russia’s largest single outbreaks.
And at a hospital in Ufa, healthy staff and sick people were quarantined in the same wards as coronavirus patients. One whistleblower called the conditions “absolutely inhumane.” The infection spread to at least 54 people.
The problem is not a willingness to take drastic measures but rather “putting them into practice and making sure it’s done right,” said Sergey Netyosov, a virologist at Russia’s Novosibirsk State University.
“If we aren’t cautious, we will be Italy, we will be Spain. We will be New York,” he said.