"Situation with coronavirus in the Crimea is serious. Now we are already seeing an increase in cases and hospitalizations. The tourist season is ahead, an unprecedented influx of people is expected. There are no restrictions. The situation could have been saved by vaccination, but it is taking place very slowly, people are mostly negative about vaccines against coronavirus. Against this background, occupation power force medical workers, military and police officers, teachers, and so on to be massively vaccinated", - Svitlana, a nurse at one of the hospitals in the city of Sevastopol, told OstroV.
The situation with coronavirus in the Crimea has begun to worsen in recent days: there is an increase in the number of cases and deaths. In addition, according to the so-called head of the Ministry of Health of the Crimea Alexander Ostapenko, fifty more people were hospitalized in hospitals over the past week (an increase of 19%) compared to the previous week.
As for vaccination, according to the information of occupation authorities of the peninsula, the Crimea received about 200 thousand doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine at the beginning of April. As of today, 122 980 Crimeans have undergone the first stage of vaccination, and 65 865 have passed the second.
The OstroV journalist talked to a nurse in one of the hospitals in the city of Sevastopol. She spoke about the situation with the spread of coronavirus in the occupied region, mandatory vaccination of medical workers and preparation for a new outbreak of morbidity against the backdrop of the upcoming tourist season.
"The situation with coronavirus, which seems to have recently stabilized, is under the threat of a new outbreak again. Starting around April 10, we see a sharp spike in hospitalizations. And this is the worst thing. Many consider the number of new cases to be the main indicator of worsening of the situation, but this is wrong. The most important thing is the level of hospitalizations and occupancy of departments for the treatment of patients with coronavirus. Although our local authorities are reluctant to provide statistics on hospitalizations, it is now sharply deteriorating. The covid unit in the hospital where I work is 90% occupied, we already have hospitalization refusals, we keep places for critical incidences. The hospital management have already increased the number of beds to the maximum, but even this does not help now. There was a meeting yesterday, at which we were announced that there would be a new delivery of equipment and beds, which we must place in the already filled wards. Most likely, some beds will have to be placed in the corridors for the emergency cases", - the health worker tells.
According to the so-called head of the Crimean department of Rospotrebnadzor Natalya Penkovskaya, there is a clear tendency for an increase in the incidence of diseases on the peninsula.
"Unfortunately, we have noted a clear upward trend in the incidence of new coronavirus infection over the past two weeks. The incidence rate has almost doubled", - she reported.
Occupation authorities name not the failing policy in the fight against coronavirus, but Ukraine as the main reason.
"The last two weeks are also distinguished by an increase in the number of imported cases of coronavirus infection from the neighboring state, Ukraine, where the situation with coronavirus infection is very unfavorable against the background of the actual lack of immunization against this disease", - chief sanitary doctor of the Crimea Natalya Penkovskaya considers.
According to the nurse from Sevastopol, imported cases from mainland Ukraine, if any, make up a minimum percentage of the total number. The main reason for the growth of diseases is called non-compliance with epidemiological measures on the peninsula and the tourist flow from Russia.
"I do not remember that I saw or heard about those hospitalized from Ukraine in recent months. Basically, we get either local residents who do not observe safety measures, or visitors from the mainland of Russia – tourists. It is no secret that the Crimea has become a place where you can sit out the Moscow or St. Petersburg lockdown under the sun. While everything is closed there, here you can do what you want, walk, drink wine and have fun. As a result, they either end up in our hospitals and occupy places, or leave for treatment in Moscow, but at the same time, they infect a lot of local residents, who then become severely ill. This is a vicious circle", - she says.
"After all, everything works here: from cinemas and restaurants to nightclubs and museums. Nobody keeps any distance. And the worst thing is that nobody controls anything. With such a disorderly system, we do not even need tourists, we ourselves will create the third and fourth "outbreak". Local authorities are afraid that if they begin to impose strict restrictions, the Crimea will lose its tourist attractiveness and will not be able to earn in the season. Believe me, the locals understand everything and do not support it at all. Especially those who need constant medical assistance, not connected with coronavirus", - the nurse admits.
She notes that, for example, pensioners with cardiovascular diseases, who need to undergo examination and treatment in a hospital regularly, suffer greatly from the increase in the incidence.
"Pensioners are very unhappy. If earlier, they could easily make an appointment with a primary care doctor in case of high blood pressure, now it is not so easy. There are few doctors, most of them are thrown on covid patients, so it is extremely difficult to make an appointment. Quite often, consultations take place simply by phone. However, I know many cases when people were denied hospitalization, if it is not a critical case. I am already silent about oncology patients who cannot receive either diagnosis or normal treatment. When these people understand that local authorities do not impose restrictions on to bring down the incidence, they do not mince their words, believe me, I have heard a lot at work", - Svitlana says.
In general, the Sevastopol nurse admits, the situation with coronavirus in the occupied Crimea resembles a tinderbox, which is about to explode. And if the local "authorities" do not begin to take any drastic measures, the "Italian scenario" with hospital beds on the streets and sorting of patients will repeat on the peninsula.
Vaccination with the Russian Sputnik V drug began in the occupied Crimea at the end of January 2021. They managed to vaccinate 122 980 Crimeans during this time (the population of the peninsula is about 2.4 million people). On average, about five thousand vaccinations per day are now being made on the peninsula. The occupation authorities set the task of increasing this number to 10 thousand.
"On the one hand, only 200 thousand doses of vaccines were brought to the Crimea, and this is precious little for several million residents of the peninsula. On the other hand, there is no excitement about getting vaccinated, to put it mildly. Our authorities are trying, as best they can, to popularize vaccination. They promise to open vaccination points in shopping centers and on city embankments soon. Mainly people with serious diseases and pensioners brought in by children or grandchildren are being vaccinated. There are very few young people", - nurse Svitlana tells.
According to her, most of the vaccines go to enterprises where mass vaccination of personnel takes place.
"This is now the most common option to get a vaccine. An enterprise sends a request for vaccination of its employees, a team comes there and vaccinates on the spot. But there are nuances as well. For example, many managers do not adhere to the voluntary vaccination rule and force all employees to be vaccinated on a compulsory basis. We hear a lot of similar stories. There is a more pleasant form of coercion – these are bonuses, which they promise to give to all vaccinated employees. Someone even lures you with extra weekends, grocery baskets, and so on. Basically, as a proponent of vaccination, I support this approach. But there are also more radical approaches, when employees are not asked at all about the desire to be vaccinated or about contraindications. And in case of refusal, they threaten with dismissal or other problems. Even my colleagues and I have encountered this", - the health worker admits.
She tells that initially, all hospital staff was told that vaccinations were completely voluntary. When the management saw that only 15 out of 110 people signed up for the vaccination, the hospital staff was gathered and it was made clear more rigidly that vaccination, although it is voluntary, must be done. After that, according to Svitlana, 20 more people signed up for the vaccination.
"Eventually, the hospital management drew up a list of all employees and told that everyone should put the date of vaccination in front of his/her last name within a week. About half of the people signed up; the dates "magically" appeared next to the rest of the names, and I was one of them. I was signed up for vaccination without my knowledge and desire, although I had been ill recently and I have certain health problems. When I came to the physician-in-chief to find out, he hinted to me that if I did not get the vaccine, I would not receive a supplement, and if I got sick, they would not pay sick leave. I had to agree, as I value my place of work. Almost all health workers face such attitude. You know, perhaps, many people want to be vaccinated, but when they force you, the desire disappears", - she says.
According to OstroV, not only medical workers, but also military personnel, police officers, teachers and other public sector workers are subject to mandatory vaccination in the occupied Crimea.
Note that officially, vaccination against coronavirus in Russia is voluntary. But later, the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation introduced vaccination against COVID-19 into the National Vaccination Schedule for epidemiological indications. This gives every Russian region the right to vaccinate certain groups of the population under the threat of epidemic.
Now information appeared in the Russian media about the preparation of a new bill that will introduce vaccination against COVID-19 in the National Calendar of Preventive Vaccinations. This will make it possible to vaccinate people of socially important professions (first of all, these are doctors and teachers) without fail, otherwise – dismissal.
"We are separately told what a wonderful Russian vaccine we have. However, the WHO did not recognize it and did not recommend it, but it is still the best. Civilized countries of the world refuse it one after another, but this is all "the intrigues of Russia's enemies". Central and local media say all the day long that we have the most effective vaccine. There are no side effects or illnesses after it. In addition to these stories, we are told every day about the terrible Pfizer and Astrazeneca, that they give terrible side reactions and do not help. All this is told together with the demonstration of creepy shotes from intensive care. Willy-nilly, you believe in this tale and want to be vaccinated with "the best vaccine in the world", - the nurse tells.
"In fact, there are side effects after Sputnik. The temperature rises, the head splits and there is a weakness. This is normal after any vaccination, but for some reason, we are afraid to talk about it. Not a word. I am already silent about that the President of Argentina fell ill with coronavirus after being vaccinated with Sputnik. Do you think someone said this in our media? No. Perhaps only in liberal-minded Internet agencies and on Facebook. We are doing well and we have "the best vaccine in the world", - Svitlana notes
An article by EUobserver was published in early April, which says that four people have died in Russia in recent weeks after being vaccinated with Sputnik V, and six more had serious side effects. Of course, the Russian authorities denied this investigation.
"There is no talk about possible side reactions at all. This topic is taboo. The maximum that you can hear about is possible "minor ailments". I am already silent about possible deaths or infections after vaccination", - the nurse says.
As for individual vaccination, there are problems with it in the Crimea, depending on the region: somewhere you can sign up for vaccination online and get vaccinated in a week, somewhere you need to wait a month or more.
"Unfortunately, there are problems with the registration for vaccination or for the second component of vaccination in some cities at the moment. We also see the queuing at vaccination points. This situation is unacceptable. Conclusions regarding the organization of this work will be drawn by the end of the week", - the so-called head of the Crimea Sergey Aksyonov acknowledges.
"Songs about the 2021 tourist season"
"I am even afraid to imagine what awaits us this summer, when Russian tourists will rush to us. Right now, our local authorities are singing songs about the 2021 tourist season, talking about how wonderful it will be this year, that the borders will remain closed, and people will go to the Crimea en masse. While the representatives of the travel industry are happy, we, doctors, are terrified of what might happen with such a flow of people", - the Crimean medical worker admits.
Occupation authorities of the Crimea are already predicting that the tourist season will be a record one, because Europe is still closed to Russian tourists. Moreover, air traffic with Turkey was closed in April. After that, according to OstroV's information, prices for vacations in the Crimea skyrocketed.
"People began to call and write en masse, to book housing both for the May holidays and for the summer. Such a high demand, of course, immediately led to a sharp jump in prices and even a shortage of housing. If nothing in the world opens, even Turkey, it will be fun here", - local realtor Iryna told our agency.
Sergey Aksyonov has already announced that severe restrictions would not be imposed in the Crimea this summer.
"The necessary measures have already been developed and no problems are foreseen. At the same time, no strict measures similar to those of last year will be introduced. At the moment, we have a principled position on refusing to completely close establishments. However, this does not mean that there will be no control over catering establishments, sanatorium-and-health-resort facilities, etc. The task of the authorities is to prepare the infrastructure and create conditions in which business representatives can comfortably conduct their activities. I believe that the Crimea is able to host more than 10 million tourists by 2025, despite the fact that our peninsula hosted up to 12 million people a year in Soviet times. I am sure that, subject to all safety measures, we will be able to have a successful holiday season, preserving the health of our citizens", - he stated.
Only the medical workers are not sure, on whose shoulders the consequences of mass tourism and refusal of strict measures will fall.
Vladyslav Bulatchik, OstroV