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Russia’s Health Ministry bans doctors from making public statements about the coronavirus

Source: Meduza

Russia’s Health Ministry has sent an order to doctors and medical institutions under its jurisdiction requiring them to coordinate any public comments on the coronavirus with the ministry, says a letter obtained by Meduza. The Health Ministry’s press service confirmed the document’s authenticity. A source in the leadership of one of the major federal healthcare centers under the ministry’s jurisdiction confirmed to Meduza that he received such a letter.

“The Russian Federation’s Health Ministry informs the heads of institutions subordinate to the Health Ministry and the Health Ministry’s main external specialists that any comments and public information on the topic of the new coronavirus infection must be agreed upon with the Health Ministry’s press service in writing or verbally by e-mail or by phone,” the letter says. 

In an official comment sent to Meduza from the department, it says that this was done “to increase the efficiency of informing the population about measures to counter the spread and prevention of incidence of COVID-19.”

The full quote reads as follows:

“Currently, the information agenda surrounding the coronavirus is overloaded, including with facts that are of little use, [and] the assumptions and predictions of experts in related specialties. To increase the efficiency of informing the population about measures to counter the spread and prevention of incidence of COVID-19, the decision was made to draw the attention of the ministry’s external specialists and subordinate institutions to the need to coordinate work with the media.”

The Health Ministry has published a list of 167 federal institutions under its jurisdiction on its website. Hospitals in Russia’s regions fall under the jurisdiction of local health authorities.

On October 26, medical workers from four hospitals in Kurgan wrote an open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin asking him to send military doctors to the region to help fight COVID-19. The letter described a “kind of hell going on with providing the population medical care during the pandemic.” The medical workers referred to “critical shortages” of hospital beds and medical personnel, as well as “overloaded” ambulance and emergency services. The next day, the Health Ministry sent a group of specialists to Kurgan to help treat coronavirus patients.

On October 27, several ambulance teams in Omsk drove to the regional Health Ministry building since there were no available beds in local hospitals for coronavirus patients. Earlier this month, reports emerged about overcrowded morgues in the Altai Krai and Kemerovo Region.

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