Russia sends army doctors to help COVID fight in Urals

Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Moscow

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia will send army medics to a region in the Urals hit by a surge in COVID-19 cases, the defence ministry said on Wednesday, after doctors there made a public plea to President Vladimir Putin for help.

Russia has seen new coronavirus cases swell in recent weeks. Authorities reported 16,202 new infections on Wednesday, and 346 deaths, the highest tally recorded yet.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered assistance to be sent to the Kurgan region, around 1,970km (1,220 miles) east of Moscow, the ministry said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.

“A team of military medical specialists will be sent there to provide advisory assistance and treatment of coronavirus patients in the region’s medical institutions,” the ministry said.

Last week medical professionals in Kurgan called on President Vladimir Putin to send reinforcements, citing a critical shortage of hospital space, staff and overloaded ambulances, in a letter published on local news site ura.news.

But in Moscow, Russia’s worst affected area, new cases fell to their lowest since Oct. 8, with 3,760 infections recorded.

Consumer health watchdog Rospotrebnadzor said the situation there was stable and the number of people hospitalised with COVID-19 had levelled out at 1,100-1,200 a day, the Interfax news agency reported.

Other areas in Russia are also under severe strain, according to local media reports. Two ambulances had brought patients to the local health ministry in the Siberian city of Omsk after finding all hospitals full, local news website ngs55.ru said on Tuesday, leading Health Minister Mikhail Murashko to order checks there.

Russia in August became the first country to grant regulatory approval for a vaccine after less than two months of human testing. Large-scale trials are now underway. Regulators approved a second vaccine earlier this month.

Russia’s COVID-19 death toll stood at nearly 27,000 on Wednesday. It has reported 1,563,976 infections, the world’s fourth largest number of cases after the United States, India and Brazil.

(Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov, Maria Kiselyova and Maria Vasilyeva; writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Tom Balmforth and Raissa Kasolowsky)

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