MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s defence ministry is setting up a mobile field hospital at the largest Siberian mine of the country’s top gold producer, Polyus, to treat miners who contract the new coronavirus, the company said on Monday.
Russia produces dozens of metals for global markets and the decision to open the field hospital at the mine underlines its concern to maintain smooth production amid the pandemic.
The mobile field hospital will have the capacity to treat up to 1,100 people at the Olimpiada mine, which is located 550 km (342 miles) north of the city of Krasnoyarsk, Polyus said.
“The unit continues working, production processes are being carried out in a continuous mode,” Polyus told Reuters.
Separately, Russia’s defence ministry said it would send around 400 servicemen to set up and operate the field hospital, including 77 medical personnel.
Though the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Russia’s remote metal mines remains relatively low, they have been increasing as more mines test their employees.
Polyus, which is controlled by Said Kerimov, son of Russian tycoon Suleiman Kerimov, started testing all its staff in the Krasnoyarsk region in April.
Initial tests, which are yet to be confirmed by a second round of testing, showed 866 positive cases among employees of the Polyus Krasnoyarsk unit as of Monday, the TASS news agency reported. The company said it has tested 3,800 employees there so far.
That marks an increase from just 89 cases as of May 9, according to data from Russia’s consumer health watchdog.
“The majority of the infected do not show any symptoms, they are isolated at the mine site,” Polyus said.
The company is cooperating with the defence and emergency ministries and regional authorities to organise proper accommodation for infected people, it said. Testing at its mines in other regions has not brought any confirmed cases.
Russia now has the world’s second highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, the lung disease caused by the virus, after the United States, at 290,678, though its death rate of 2,722 is much lower than in some other countries.
Russia has imposed a partial quarantine to curb the spread of the coronavirus but companies with so-called continuous production cycles such as miners and farmers are exempt.
Polyus Krasnoyarsk is the company’s largest unit and operates the mines of Olimpiada, Blagodatnoye and Titimukhta.
At the Olimpiada mine, miners work in rotational shifts. The next rotational team is now being quarantined in a regional hub before taking over at the mine, Polyus said.
(Reporting by Polina Devitt; editing by Gareth Jones)