“Due to the large number of infected people, Russian authorities couldn’t trace every source of infection and put them in quarantine camps like the Vietnamese government did. Most of the positive cases were isolated in their homes,” said Tran Dam Rang, 27, an Earth Science researcher who has lived in Russia for nine years.
He said he had contracted Covid-19 and recovered more than two weeks ago, after a period of self-quarantine and treatment in the dormitory. When a positive case was detected, the dormitory management asked residents of each floor to limit contact with people on other floors.
In case positive cases were found on multiple floors, the local health authority isolated the whole building, conducted testing and monitored treatment until there were no infected people left in the building. Only then were the barricades removed.
Those not living in the dormitory were instructed to isolate and monitor themselves at home. They would be punished if they left the house of their own volition during the self-isolation period.
Due to the large number of infections, the inspection of self-isolation facilities is not that tight, Rang said, adding that cross-contamination still occurs in the dormitory. But, he said, “at least the confirmed patient is isolated and not freely wandering the streets.”
The fine for individuals violating quarantine in Russia is ₽15,000-40,000 ($200-543), and for officials or organization leaders, ₽50,000-150,000 ($678-2,035).
“In case the violator infects others or causes other people’s deaths, the fine gets higher.”.
According to the Washington Post , the method of monitoring and notifying quarantine violations is integrated in the contact tracing application on people’s phones in Russia. Persons subject to home isolation need to submit location verification photos via the app at the required time, proving they have not left the building.
Van A., an international journalism student in Russia who tested positive for Covid-19 in July 2020, said that she was given a special phone by the local government to track location and submit daily health reports. In Moscow, because the number of infections was very high, patients were divided into categories based on the level of severity. When she called to report her symptoms, she had to wait a while for the authorities to arrange a doctor to check.
According to the Russian federal government’s Covid-19 response portal, the nationwide hotline system for people to request assistance when they have Covid symptoms is established by the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Protection and Welfare (Rospotrebnadzor), a federal executive body administered by the state. Each locality has its own Covid-19 hotline in coordination with federal agencies.
When a caller confirms that she or he has been to an outbreak site or had close contact with a confirmed case before she or he starts showing symptoms, the operator will take basic steps, including obtaining personal information of the caller; asking them not to leave home of self-medicate, limit non-essential medical visits, and call local health authorities or emergency services to arrange for a home visit.
“I experienced a slight loss of taste. The doctor came to my house to check my health, then gave me a drug prescription to take to increase my resistance, and told me to eat more to get better. The next day I was given a phone. When my condition got worse later, I was admitted to the hospital. At that time, the hospital was too crowded, so I had to wait to be transferred to a field hospital later,” said Van A.
Pham Phuong, who has lived and worked in Russia since 2002, had a similar experience when his family of four was infected with the virus in November last year. After experiencing high fever, he took the initiative to take a chest X-ray and discovered that 10 percent of his lungs were damaged on each side, and he had to be hospitalized for three days.
Phuong’s wife's X-ray only showed five percent lung damage, so the doctor asked her to self-quarantine at home. However, iust a few days later, the damage had increased to 25 percent and she was hospitalized for 14 days. His two children also tested positive for the virus but did not have any symptoms.
Moscow is considered to have the best health system and facility to treat Covid-19 patients in Russia. Asymptomatic or mild cases are monitored by phone. Patients self-treating Covid-19 at home will receive all prescription drugs free of charge.
People who self-treat for Covid-19 and their housemates must install a social monitoring application and take photos to confirm their location several times a day, preventing the risk of going out and infecting the community.
The city has also built an electronic medical record system for infected people so that both patients and doctors can assess the situation on a list of daily health indicators to monitor, according to the city government's portal.
The Russian capital was forced to adopt this policy to reduce pressure on the health system. As of July 23, Russia had recorded over six million cases, including more than 151,000 deaths.
The number of deaths has continued to increase rapidly in the past week and is currently the highest in Europe. Russia has surpassed France to become the fourth largest epidemic area in the world, after the U.S., India and Brazil.
Despite this status, however, the general mood was not downbeat, said Phuong.
“Currently, more than 20,000 cases are recorded every day in Russia, but people here are still optimistic. They think there will be medicine for Covid-19 available soon and the pandemic will be just like a seasonal flu.”
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