COVID-19: Russian Disease Specialist May Have Spread Virus; Georgia Declares State Of Emergency
By RFE/RL March 21, 2020
The top infectious-disease specialist in a Russian region may have coronavirus and could have spread it to students and doctors after she failed to quarantine herself following a vacation in Spain, the daily Kommersant has reported.
Stavropol Governor Vladimir Vladimirov said on March 19 in an Instagram post that the region had its first suspected case of coronavirus and that a final determination will be made following a laboratory test in Novosibirsk.
He immediately announced that all kindergartens and universities would be closed as of March 23 and that additional measures to contain its spread would be taken.
Vladimirov did not name the person that tested positive, but Kommersant said people on social media immediately identified the individual as Irina Sannikova, the region's leading infectious-disease specialist.
Sannikova reportedly returned earlier this month from Spain, one of the hardest-hit countries by the virus, and did not quarantine herself, the paper said. She held a few lectures at the medical university for students and resident physicians, people on social media said.
The medical university was immediately put under quarantine on March 19 while students and professors who came into contact with a person "suspected of having the novel coronavirus infection" have been asked to take tests and isolate themselves in the meantime at home, Kommersant reported.
Stavropol's infectious-disease hospital, Sannikova's main workplace, has also been put under quarantine, Kommersant reported, citing social media. Kommersant said it could not confirm that because it could not get through on any of the hospital's telephone numbers.
During a press conference on March 20, Stavropol Deputy Health Minister Olga Drozdetskaya confirmed that the person that tested positive for coronavirus was a female doctor that had returned from vacation in Spain. Drozdetskaya said the doctor had taken part in a few events at the Health Ministry and that some participants had now been quarantined.
The infected doctor was in stable condition and no longer on oxygen, Drozdetskaya said.
Russia's official tally early on March 21 showed the total number of infections at 253, a day after Moscow's coronavirus crisis center announced 54 confirmed new cases across the country.
One coronavirus patient, a 79-year-old woman, has died. Russian authorities said the cause of her death was not officially registered as COVID-19 because an autopsy revealed she had died of a blood clot.
But a global resource center at Johns Hopkins University early on March 21 was listing the woman as Russia's only confirmed coronavirus death.
Russia's Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare said on March 21 that more than 36,000 people were under medical observation in the country due to the situation with coronavirus.
Russia has temporarily barred entry into the country of foreigners because of the pandemic. Russian officials also have imposed restrictions on passenger flights and public gatherings.
Russia's national health watchdog has decreed that "all individuals arriving in Russia" must be isolated for medical observation.
Georgia's parliament has approved a presidential decree that imposes a one-month nationwide state of emergency in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
President Salome Zurabishvili on March 21 sent the decree to parliament as the number of cases in the former Soviet republic rose to 49. The parliament passed it later that evening.
Zurabishvili told the parliament deputies that the monthlong measure might seem excessive with still relatively few cases, but that it's "better this way than an epidemic starting and entering an acute phase."
She warned that the measures were not meant to infringe upon freedom of expression, media freedom, or political rights and expressed hope it would not delay elections planned for October.
Under Georgia's constitution, a national election can only be held six months after the end of a state of emergency.
The president called on citizens to follow the recommendations of the World Health Organization and the Georgian Health Ministry in order to slow the spread of the virus and avoid a "new level" of restrictions.
So far, there have not been any deaths in Georgia from the virus.
Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia had earlier initiated the call for the state of emergency to battle the disease.
"Our main task today is preventing a fast spread of coronavirus among the population," Gakharia said, adding that punishments should be imposed against those who violate "quarantine and self-isolation regulations during the state of emergency."
Gahkharia said restrictions on traffic, except for the transport of cargo, also should be imposed.
He also said property rights for individuals and legal entities could be restricted during the state of emergency.
A few lawmakers expressed disappointment that the state of emergency -- as it now stands -- would extend into the Easter holiday, which will be celebrated this year in Georgia on April 19.
The government of North Macedonia on March 21 said it has decided to impose a curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. beginning on March 22 in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic, the first time such a step has been taken since the country's independence in 1991.
In an emergency address, Prime Minister Oliver Spasovski said that "we have decided to introduce the most radical measures in order to protect the health of citizens."
"Starting [March 22], we will restrict the movement of all citizens. It is forbidden for the population to move outside between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. every day. There is no compromise when it comes to the health of citizens," Spasovski warned.
The prohibitions exclude persons who need medical assistance or whose lives are endangered. Those who need dialysis are allowed to arrive for treatment with up to two other people.
Employees in health-care facilities are also excluded from the curfew, as are members of the Ministry of Interior, the army, fire crews, and workers in municipal hygiene.
North Macedonia has registered 85 cases and no deaths.
The Romanian government on March 21 announced a curfew that will restrict the movement of people from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and go into effect on March 23. It is expected to last through the 30-day state of emergency declared on March 16.
Those exempted include people going to work and those requiring medical assistance.
Interior Minister Marcel Vela and other officials said the measures will also prohibit gatherings of more than three persons outside the home and will mandate the closing of shopping malls and dental clinics. Restaurants and other gathering places were ordered closed earlier in the week.
During the night curfew hours, the only people allowed to move about are medical professionals, those engaging in work activities, shopping for necessary items, and caring for children or the elderly or people walking their pets.
"Everything we have decided to implement is meant to limit the risks to the population," Vela said.
He also warned those who are price-gouging or taking other actions to profit from the crisis.
"We have taken strong actions against those who have tried to speculate on the situation in order to get rich. It's not just illegal -- it's also cynical," he said.
Romania has registered 367 coronavirus cases with no deaths.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said the government will extend a curfew that is already in effect by three hours as the country attempts to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 virus, making it a 12-hour ban from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m.
He said the steps are necessary "for our survival," and he threatened a 24-hour curfew if residents continue to ignore orders to remain indoors.
Serbia has registered 171 cases and one death related to the coronavirus.
Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov has called for a nationwide quarantine to slow the spread of coronavirus as its largest city, Kyiv, said it would shut down all public transportation for noncritical personnel.
Avakov, one of the most powerful officials in Ukraine, said the measures already put in place to fight the spread will be "significantly toughened" in the coming days. He said only "critical" industries should remain open and everyone else sent home.
"A total, full quarantine is my position, which I want to ask each of you. And I will insist on it, according to the power of my position," Avakov said in a Facebook post on March 21.
Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on March 20 that a state of emergency had been declared in the city of Kyiv, the east-central Dnipropetrovsk region, and the western Ivano-Fankivsk region.
"No new restrictions are yet to be expected. The emergency mode is designed to mobilize efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19," he wrote on Telegram.
Earlier, states of emergency were declared in the Kyiv and Zhytomyr regions in the north-central part of the country and the southwestern region of Chernivtsi.
Under the state of emergency, the heads of the affected regions are expected to implement coordinated measures to curtail the spread of the virus and to submit daily reports to the Health Ministry.
Ukraine had reported 41 coronavirus infections and three fatalities as of the end of March 20, prompting the country to declare a state of emergency to better mobilize efforts to fight the virus.
The total represents a rise of 15 cases over the past 24 hours. However, the country has done limited testing, suggesting the number of people infected could be much greater.
The country has already ordered restaurants, bars, gyms, theaters, shopping malls, and schools to close. It has also essentially sealed its border to foreign travel and domestic long-distance travel by means of bus, rail and plane.
Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko said in a March 21 video post that only people whose work was vital to the city will be allowed to use public transport. The new measure goes into effect as of March 23, he said
Kyiv shut down its subway on March 17, causing chaos as tens of thousands of people struggled to get to work via other means. Transportation by private cars will still be permitted.
Supermarkets, pharmacies, banks, gas stations, post offices, and parcel companies will remain open in Ukraine, officials said.
The number of coronavirus cases in Armenia has risen to 160, an increase of 24 infections during the previous 24 hours, according to the country's heath authorities.
Armenian Health Minister Arsen Torosyan said in a live broadcast on Facebook on March 21 that there were 11 patients among those infected with the coronavirus who have been diagnosed with pneumonia.
Torosyan said three patients required intensive care. But he said none of the patients were in critical danger.
Details about new cases had not been released by the afternoon of March 21.
Armenia has not reported any fatalities from the disease.
Yerevan declared a national emergency on March 16 in an attempt to slow the spread of the pandemic disease.
Kyrgyzstan's Security Council has recommended that Prime Minister Mukhammedkalyi Abylgaziev declare a national state of emergency beginning on March 22 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The recommendation, made during a Security Council meeting in Bishkek on March 21, was announced by President Sooronbai Jeenbekov's office.
Local officials in Kyrgyzstan have already declared a state of emergency in the southern district of Nookat, where three coronavirus cases were reported on March 20.
A state of emergency has also been announced by local officials in the Suzak district, where three men have tested positive for coronavirus.
All six confirmed cases in Kyrgyzstan are people who recently returned to Kyrgyzstan from Saudi Arabia.
Uzbekistan's Health Ministry announced four more confirmed coronavirus infections on March 21, raising the total number in the country to 37.
The ministry said a total of 3,200 people who had contact with the infected patients have been placed in quarantine.
All kindergartens, schools, and universities in Uzbekistan have been temporarily closed and public gatherings have been prohibited.
The Transport Ministry said on March 20 that it had suspended international travel into the country for 40 days. The regulation does not affect cargo shipments, it said.
In Kazakhstan, five more coronavirus cases were reported on March 20, including the first two cases outside Nur-Sultan, the capital, and the country's largest city, Almaty.
With three more cases in Almaty and two in the central city of Qaraghandy, the total number of coronavirus infections in Kazakhstan on March 21 was 49.
Nur-Sultan and Almaty have been sealed off since March 19, with police, security forces, and military personnel blocking roads and highways within and around the two cities.
In Tajikistan, the government suspended all international flights starting on March 20. No coronavirus cases have been reported by authorities in Tajikistan so far.
In Turkmenistan, RFE/RL correspondents report that the capital, Ashgabat, has been surrounded with security checkpoints since March 19 in an attempt by authorities to regulate entries into the city.
Only residents of Ashgabat are allowed to enter the city now, and travel between cities has been restricted, RFE/RL correspondents report.
Turkmenistan also had not officially confirmed any cases of coronavirus as of March 21.
Pakistan says it has suspended all international flights for two weeks in an attempt to limit the spread of the coronavirus, joining dozens of other countries that have taken similar measures.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Pakistan said in a statement on March 21 that the ban would go into effect that evening and last until April 4.
The ban includes charter flights as well, officials said. Diplomats and cargo will be allowed to land in the country.
Individuals who have had their flight canceled can either get a refund or rebook for other dates without any charge, officials at Pakistan International Airlines said.
The announcement comes after Pakistan said the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country jumped to 531 as of March 21 with three deaths.
The death toll from coronavirus outbreak is nearly 11,500 people around the world, with Europe at the center of the pandemic as the number of confirmed cases globally topped 275,000.
Iran's official death toll was the third-highest in the world on March 21 with 123 newly reported deaths raising the total across the country to 1,556.
Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said on March 21 that an additional 966 infections had been confirmed during the previous 24 hours.
That raised the total number of confirmed infections in Iran to more than 20,600, according to officials in Tehran.
Many Iranians believe the government in Tehran is underreporting the extent of the outbreak there.
According to a tally by Johns Hopkins University early on March 21, the confirmed number of cases worldwide had reached 275,434 -- including 11,399 deaths.
With reporting by RFE/RL's Georgian, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Russian, Tajik, Turkmen, Ukrainian, Uzbek services, AFP, Reuters, TASS, UNIAN, Interfax, Ukrayinska pravda, Financial Times, and Khaleej Times
Copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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