Doctors in Russia are accusing the government of covering up its coronavirus outbreak and denying them protective equipment

Anastasia Vasilyeva, the head of Russia's Alliance of Doctors trade union.
Anastasia Vasilyeva, the head of Russia’s Alliance of Doctors trade union.

Alliance of Doctors/YouTube

  • A doctors’ union in Russia accused authorities of disguising the extent of the country’s coronavirus outbreak.

  • The head of the Alliance of Doctors trade union said in a video that officials were classifying coronavirus deaths as pneumonia deaths.

  • The video also alleged that doctors were being made to treat patients without protective gear, risking spreading the virus further.

  • Hospital officials have strongly denied the claims and suggested that the union leader was trying to discredit the medical profession in Russia.

  • So far, Russian officials have said there are about 250 coronavirus infections and one death in the population of about 145 million.

  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Doctors in Russia say the government is covering up coronavirus cases in the country and forcing medical staff to treat infectious patients without protective equipment.

Anastasia Vasilyeva, the head of Russia’s Alliance of Doctors trade union, voiced the accusation in a video published on Thursday.

She called on Russian doctors to go public with information about the “true” state of the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

“While the whole world is facing an outbreak of a new coronavirus, Russia is facing an outbreak of a community-acquired pneumonia,” Vasilyeva said. “And as usual, we’re facing the lie of the authorities.”

She said Russian authorities were referring to coronavirus cases as ordinary pneumonia, implying that they’re distinct from the coronavirus pandemic.

Russian authorities strongly denied her claims. A statement from the Moscow Department of Health accused her of seeking “to discredit Russian medicine and relevant government agencies” and called for authorities to investigate her.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, who is leading the country's response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, who is leading the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Dmitry Astakhov/TASS via Getty Images

Russian state media said on Friday that 253 people in Russia, which has a population of about 145 million people, had tested positive for the coronavirus. Russia has announced one death.

In an article published by the official TASS news agency on Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said the government had kept the virus out by limiting travel and quarantining people.

In her video, Vasilyeva said: “Colleagues, you have been mobilized for the fight with the so-called community-acquired pneumonia, and simultaneously they make you hide the real situation, keep silent about the absence of protective equipment.

“They make you sew yourself gauze facial masks and wash them. They don’t provide you with the protective suits. They put at risk you and all our country. This is silliness of the authorities. Officials want to avoid the panic.”

She said authorities were effectively forcing medical workers to spread the virus to other ill patients by refusing to equip them properly or give them accurate information.

“We don’t know ourselves whether we’re dealing with a deadly infection or just pneumonia,” she said. “Already now we experience lack of hospital beds for the so-called community-acquired pneumonia.

“Our common task is to demand the protections used in the whole world,” she said. “They will be intimidating you and even threaten to fire you — but that threat is nothing compared to the risk to get infected yourself and to infect your family members.”

One doctor in Moscow told Canada’s CBC News this week that they and colleagues were avoiding giving diagnoses of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, because of harsh conditions in Russian quarantine facilities, which the doctors could also be sent to.

An empty scene at the usually bustling GUM department store in Moscow on Friday.
An empty scene at the usually bustling GUM department store in Moscow on Friday.

Gavriil Grigorov/TASS via Getty Images

A response to Vasilyeva’s video from the Moscow Department of Health said: “Since Moscow has strengthened preventive measures and improving the quality of treatment for pneumonia, three hospitals … are used as places for finding specialized patients.”

It said that the large number of pneumonia patients was because of this reorganization and that every patient had been tested for the coronavirus and returned negative.

It also said it “denied information about the lack of protective masks, suits and forcing doctors to treat non-coronavirus patients.”

It accused Vasilyeva of seeking to “disseminate misinformation about outbreaks of infection with a new virus and to discredit Russian medicine and relevant government agencies against this background,” adding, “Since the head of the union has repeatedly provided fake information, the competent authorities should check its activity for violations of the law.”

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