The new coronavirus is sweeping through some of the mountain villages of Russia’s far-flung Dagestan region and they are struggling to treat patients properly, protect medics or even count the dead, five local officials said, Reuters reported.
President Vladimir Putin has devoted a coronavirus crisis meeting to Dagestan, the only one of Russia’s dozens of regions discussed in this way, and on Wednesday ordered medical brigades from the capital to reinforce local healthcare services.
The mainly Muslim region lies over a thousand miles (1,650 km) south of Moscow, where recorded COVID-19 case numbers are falling. It is home to Russia’s main Caspian Sea naval base and a simmering Islamist insurgency has flared on and off for years.
In the village of Gubden, around 50 people have died since the start of the outbreak in April, the same number as usually die during a whole year, Osman Dzhalilov, the village head said.
To begin with local medical facilities could not even provide oxygen support, he said by telephone, describing how residents bought oxygen balloons and masks themselves and did their best to rig them up using plastic mineral water bottles.
In another village, Gergebil, 44-year-old X-ray technician Aminat Medzhidova, died of coronavirus on May 2 after examining hundreds of patients with similar symptoms for weeks, her brother Nurmagomed Medzhidov said.
He said his sister, a mother of four children, tried to protect herself with a homemade mask and raincoat-like cover.
She felt she could not stop working, he said, explaining that one day, 170 people showed up at her office. “Who else would work there?” her brother said.
The village saw around 30 deaths within the last month compared with an average monthly death rate of three or four people, one local official said, declining to be named because of the sensitivity of his situation.
“We’re glad here that at least young people don’t get sick. If they got sick too, we wouldn’t have anyone to bury our dead. We bury them ourselves, we have no undertakers,” he said.