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Moscow doctors end separation between hospitals for COVID-19 and ‘community-acquired pneumonia,’ acknowledging that the two are largely the same

Moscow has convened a new clinical committee that includes the lead doctors of all hospitals currently accepting COVID-19 patients. One of the committee’s first proposals was to stop separating inpatient facilities into those accepting COVID-19 cases and those accepting all other pneumonia patients.

As in many other countries, Russia’s response to the coronavirus pandemic had been criticized for its low testing rates. However, one distinguishing factor in Russia is that, on paper, the COVID-19 pandemic has coincided with a supposedly unrelated outbreak of ‘community-acquired pneumonia.’ Especially in urban areas, multiple hospitals have been set aside for pneumonia patients who supposedly do not have COVID-19, leading to fears among family members and medical staff who doubt the distinction.

Now, Moscow’s new clinical committee has acknowledged that most pneumonia cases detected at the present time are caused by the new coronavirus. The group’s statement was quoted on Telegram by Moscow’s task force for fighting the pandemic.

Denis Protsenko, the lead doctor at Moscow’s central coronavirus hospital and a COVID-19 patient himself, noted that “the precision of currently existing tests for COVID-19 is 70 – 80 percent, such that in some cases, the tests yield false negatives, and the proportion of such results is significant.” Protsenko said tests for clinical symptoms are far more reliable but implied that many coronavirus cases remain undetected.

The head of Moscow’s healthcare department has already signed an order following up on the doctors’ recommendation. The new policy will allow Muscovites diagnosed with pneumonia to remain at the same pneumonia-designated facilities even if they are later confirmed to have COVID-19. Previously, they would have had to move to a different hospital set aside for the disease.

Meanwhile, Russia’s federal public health agency told Interfax that there has in fact been no significant increase in community-acquired pneumonia in Russia this year.

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