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Central Russia has some of the country’s highest elderly populations. Here’s how officials are trying to protect them from COVID-19.

Source: Meduza
Yury Kochetkov / EPA / Scanpix / LETA

Elderly people are particularly susceptible to complications, including deadly complications, from the novel coronavirus continuing its spread across the world. A Meduza investigation revealed that in Russia, the areas with the highest proportions of elderly residents are located in the Central Federal District. In the Tula, Tambov, Ryazan, and Tver regions in particular, COVID-19 poses an unusually high threat. Andrey Pertsev surveyed the actions government leaders in those regions are taking to protect their constituents, address potential ventilator shortages, and take care of those whose age makes them most vulnerable to the epidemic.

Tula region

  • Coronavirus task force led by regional governor Alexey Dyumin, a former bodyguard for Vladimir Putin
  • No general self-isolation order, unlike most Russian regions
  • Mandatory self-isolation for those over 65 until April 19
  • Sharp rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases in recent days, from 29 on April 5 to 39 on April 6
  • No official deaths, though one 93-year-old woman died immediately after overcoming the illness
  • Six hospitals designated for COVID-19 patients; three laboratories designated for testing
  • 733 infectious disease beds region-wide
  • Government-run center reportedly employs social workers who provide food and essentials to any elderly constituents who call and ask for help
  • Governor has publicly asked elderly people to stay home on multiple occasions
  • Discounted transit tickets for students and the elderly have been cancelled
  • Hotel reservations banned until April 12

Meduza’s models indicate that if 40 percent of the Tula region’s population contracts COVID-19, 10,100 individuals may require intensive care. However, official statistics indicate that the region only possesses 297 ventilators, which can be necessary to help patients with severe cases breathe. The regional government plans to purchase 27 more ventilators and one extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine.

The press service of Tula’s regional executive branch promised to comment in the near future on why it has not introduced stricter isolation measures.

Tver region

  • Coronavirus task force led by regional governor Igor Rudenya, a former nationwide deputy agriculture minister imported from Moscow
  • No general self-isolation order, unlike most Russian regions
  • Governor does not make regular public speeches about the pandemic but has claimed that residents are taking social distancing seriously
  • Only eight confirmed COVID-19 cases as of April 7
  • 16 hospitals designated to accept COVID-19 patients
  • 795 infectious disease beds and 137 ICU beds region-wide
  • Regional hotline available to provide food and medicine for elderly residents
  • Hotel room reservations banned until June 1 to prevent a potential influx of tourists from Moscow

Meduza’s models indicate that if 40 percent of the Tver region’s population contracts COVID-19, 8,200 individuals may require intensive care. Nonetheless, the Tver region has far fewer ventilators than the Tula region, with a total count of 116. Regional officials have acted accordingly, allocating 135.9 million rubles ($1.80 million) out of 149.4 million ($1.98 million) received from the federal government to buy medical equipment, including 46 more ventilators.

Tambov region

  • Coronavirus task force led by Alexander Nikitin, the former speaker of the regional legislature
  • General self-isolation order put in place April 1; residents permitted only to shop for essentials, take out the trash, work essential jobs, and walk pets within 100 meters of their homes
  • Governor has called on security forces not to use violence in enforcing self-isolation rules
  • 15 confirmed cases as of April 7; three recoveries
  • Transit frequency decreased for trains to Moscow and intercity buses
  • Two establishment political parties, the All-Russian People’s Front and the youth branch of United Russia, are accepting calls from elderly residents for food and medicine deliveries

According to Meduza’s models, if 40 percent of the Tambov region’s population contracts the virus, 7,100 people will need ventilators. The region’s current stock is 242, and it intends to buy 156 more. The same federal money that will be used to buy ventilators will also go toward doubling the region’s number of ICU beds.

Ryazan region

  • Coronavirus task force led by Deputy Governor Igor Grekov, but Governor Nikolai Lyubimov, a former federal legislator who cut his political teeth in Kaluga, regularly gives speeches on COVID-19
  • General self-isolation order in place
  • 17 confirmed cases; three recoveries
  • Governor has said he will donate half of his salary to medical workers each month and called on other residents to make donations if they are able
  • Ryazan city officials regularly disinfect public areas
  • Ryazan city police use loudspeakers to warn the public to stay home
  • Commercial transit services cancelled in all areas where a publicly-run alternative is available
  • All-Russian People’s Front volunteers deliver food and medicine to the elderly

Meduza’s models predict that if 40 percent of the Ryazan region’s population gets COVID-19, 7,600 people will need intensive care. The region currently has 293 ventilators and plans to buy 28 more.

Reporting by Andrey Pertsev

English-language summary by Hilah Kohen

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