There is a supply of masks in Tatarstan, but none — in pharmacies

Mikhail Mishustin's ban on the export of medical masks from Russia is at least a month late

There is a supply of masks in Tatarstan, but none — in pharmacies
Photo: Maksim Platonov

The ban imposed by the Russian government on the export of medical masks is clearly too late. In any case, it has become impossible to buy these products in Kazan — their remains are not available not only in pharmacies but also in retail chains, and new supplies are not expected. Nevertheless, Roszdravnadzor assured Realnoe Vremya that the republic has a 10-day supply of masks, but it was difficult to name the addresses where they can be purchased. How to resist the coronavirus and what to do to be ready for pandemics — read in the comments of manufacturers of medical products and doctors.

Masks-show from pharmacists

In pharmacies in Kazan, medical masks are not available — none of those that were called and visited by correspondents of Realnoe Vremya, these products were not found. It is pointless to look them for, we have also been confirmed in the unified reference list of medicines — these products have not been available for several days:

“There is no place to send you because wherever we send you, to any pharmacy, everyone returns to us again — there are no masks anywhere. We are already tired of answering questions about masks, the hype is terrible. On the website in Vita pharmacies, there are masks, but when you start calling them — there is nothing left," the operator of the reference service 003 reported.

The resource indicates a dozen major manufacturers of medical masks, but there are not many Russian ones among them. And some, like UralPromMed, have already stopped producing them. Nevertheless, representatives of the industry explain that, despite the increased orders at times, they can not overload their production capacities.

“Look, all production facilities in Russia do not change orders depending on whether demand has increased or not. Production capacity is planned for the year ahead. Trading companies or hospitals want to buy from us — we planned it, all manufacturers live that way. Therefore, yes, there is additional demand, but nothing can be done, all the capacities are occupied, only stocks can be relied on," explained Pavel Spichakov, one of the founders of KIT company — the largest manufacturer of medical masks in Russia with a market coverage of 30%.

In a situation when the coronavirus is already on the threshold, it is not necessary to open new production facilities for the production of masks in the country, the expert is convinced: “No one will open them now and will not deliver the equipment. At the government level, the proposal is being discussed, and this is the only way to solve the problem — to form reserves.”

“Mask manufacturers won't help you now. In the summer, we are working at a loss — no one wants to buy masks, but we could use these production capacities to build stocks. And I have already made this proposal. Such outbreaks, as of now, happen one time in five years. No one will build a factory and wait because of it, the equipment can not stand idle so much. And our standard epidemics — viral respiratory infections, the flu — are fully covered by our manufacturers. If we are talking only about the needs of the domestic market and our usual epidemiological threshold, our production facilities are enough. If to speak about the pandemic, which has never happened before and suddenly appear, of course, required reserves," said Spichakov.

“There is a 10-day supply”

According to Roszdravnadzor, Tatarstan currently has a significant supply of medical masks. The head of the territorial department of the agency Lyubov Shaykhutdinova told our publication:

“According to the monitoring results, as of 4 March 2020, pharmacies in the republic have a stock of medical masks for an average of ten days. The stock of medical masks in large wholesale medical organizations is on average 24 days.

The representatives of the agency do not explain the contradiction between the results of official monitoring and the actual range of pharmacies. And they can't influence the situation within the framework of the current legislation: medical masks are not included in the list of vital and essential medicines, so there is no reason for Roszdravnadzor to force pharmacies to purchase them or apply any sanctions to them.

“Deficit across the country”

The list of temporarily prohibited items for export, approved by the decree signed by Mikhail Mishustin, includes medical respirators, safety glasses, full-face masks and filters, disposable chemical protection overalls, anti-plague overalls, shoe covers, masks, bandages, gloves, and the like.

The ban on the export of medical items does not apply to humanitarian aid and does not apply to citizens who export disposable protective equipment for personal use.

But the shortage of these funds in Kazan began more than a month before the ban was imposed. Already in early February, medical masks were difficult to find in pharmacies in the capital of Tatarstan. And, as follows from the comment received by Realnoe Vremya from the Tatarstan FAS of Russia, it is hardly possible to cope with it today.

Already in early February, medical masks were difficult to find in pharmacies in the capital of Tatarstan. Photo: evening-kazan.ru

“The issues related to the shortage and lack of medical masks in pharmacies in Kazan belong to the jurisdiction (competence) of Roszdravnadzor," the department stressed and openly admitted the fact that Roszdravnadzor denies. “The Tatarstan Federal Antimonopoly Service of Russia, within its powers and on behalf of the Federal Antimonopoly Service of Russia, carries out weekly monitoring of prices for protective equipment. There is a shortage of medical masks throughout the country: colleagues in the regions of the Russian Federation also report a shortage. At the moment, the demand is much higher than the supply.

The Federal Antimonopoly Service in Tatarstan has also indicated that “the issue of the availability of means of individual protection in Tatarstan directly viewed and controlled by the government of the republic”.

“It remains to survive March, and then the risks of the coronavirus epidemic will be lower”

“There's no point in wearing masks if you don't change them every two hours. Some people wear them all day without changing them. And they should only be worn in confined spaces with a large concentration of people. It is pointless to wear them on the street," warns chief non-staff specialist on infectious diseases at the ministry of healthcare of Tatarstan Khalit Khaertynov.

The issue of masks' availability is not the responsibility of the ministry of healthcare, since they are not related to medicines. As for medicines, a large stock of antiviral drugs is being formed in the republic.

“However, I must say that today there are no drugs with proven effectiveness to combat the coronavirus. For example, in the case of flu, we know drugs with high efficiency, but here only the recommended ones. While there are only a few cases of infection in Russia, there are enough of these drugs available. If you need to get them urgently, there should be no shortage. Of course, everything will depend on the number of patients, but so far we can predict with a high degree of probability that we will not have such a situation as in China or South Korea.

There are no official forecasts on how the coronavirus epidemic may develop in Russia. However, since the infection is transmitted by airborne droplets, the infectious disease specialist assumes that the peak incidence should have occurred in February and March. So half of the dangerous period is over.

“We have to survive March, and then the risks of a coronavirus epidemic in Russia will be lower. But these are my assumptions, everything can happen in life. However, in China, the incidence has declined. However, in South Korea and Italy, the situation is not very good. Therefore, it is necessary to continue large-scale preventive measures," noted Chertanov.

Stop panicking!

“The problem is not that we have an extremely small stock of medical devices, including medical masks," said Deputy of the State Duma of the Russian Federation from Tatarstan Boris Mendelevich. “In my opinion, the problem in general is related to the panic moods that exist in society. I've been talking about them for a couple of months — since the first information about the coronavirus appeared. In my opinion, the coronavirus itself is not so terrible as the consequences that can lead to panic in society.

Without denying the seriousness of this disease and the importance of the state's “quite adequate and correct measures” against its spread, Boris Mendelevich insists that panic does more harm:

“If we successfully fight against panic moods, we will not sweep everything off the shelves of pharmacies in a row-just to buy something. As far as I know, the Russian prime minister gave instructions a month ago to create a stock of medical devices, including medical masks and antiviral drugs. But if we talk about drugs. There are about 30-35 of them registered in Russia, but we are not sure which of them are effective against coronavirus, and I do not see the point in creating a stock of all these drugs. Moreover, there is already an uncontrolled intake of them, which is no less harmful than the disease itself. And there are in medical institutions that should prescribe these drugs.

Rp: “Don't sneeze at everyone”

“There is nothing wrong with the stock of masks, but I also have my own opinion on this," said Boris Mendelevich. “It makes no sense for healthy people to wear masks to protect themselves from the disease, I am sure that masks should be worn first by people who have felt the first symptoms of a bacterial or viral disease — this is more effective.

And for this category, we need not such large stocks as for all healthy ones. In addition, according to Mendelevich, the coronavirus epidemic can encourage Russians to change the culture of behaviour of a sick person:

“Now it can be formulated as follows: “I sneeze at everyone!” that is, the main thing is to make me comfortable. And there is no need to take care of the health of others. I think this epidemic will lead us to at least begin to discuss the question of how to behave to a person who is ill.”

The rules, according to the interlocutor of Realnoe Vremya, are simple here: wear a mask (and change every 2-2,5 hours), do not go to the clinic, and call a doctor at home (do not infect other patients), do not go to work (do not infect colleagues). He noted that in some countries, such as Israel, employers, in order to maintain a working team, even give three days for a person to lie down without sick leave, with the preservation of wages, and this is more profitable for them than the “labour exploits” of sick employees, after which offices and production “die out” for a long time.

Even sneezing in a public place, he said, must be learned not just “culturally” but correctly:

“People usually sneeze covering with his or her hand. But it is necessary — with the elbow bend!

By Vasilya Shirshova, Inna Serova
Tatarstan