Dmitry Lopushov: ‘It will anyway take time to completely cancel self-isolation’
The chief epidemiologist of the Ministry of Health Care of the Republic of Tatarstan said that self-distancing and minimisation of contact may not limit to April only
16 new cases of coronavirus infection a day at once were registered in Tatarstan for the first time on 7 April. Head specialist in epidemiology of the Tatarstan Ministry of Health Care Dmitry Lopushov explained to Realnoe Vremya why there had been such a surge, the effectiveness of strict measures taken in the republic to fight the spread of COVID-19 and when they would be cancelled.
Mr Lopushov, your January forecast for the arrival of coronavirus in Russia became true. As you assumed, the infection reached our country within days. Do you think we will combat it?
According to existing data, the incidence is still growing in the Russian Federation. We haven’t so far entered the phase of stabilisation.
Does it mean that the measures taken aren’t working or working badly?
The incidence is rising gradually, without surges. It means the goal of the measures that are taken now has been achieved. They were aimed to smooth the situation, avoid a peak.
… But it is too early to tell
When can we say that we have succeeded?
We can say if the situation has been stopped or not no earlier than in 14 days after the measures began to be taken. It must take at least the incubation period to stop the chain of infection, while only a week has passed. It is too early to tell.
What results do you expect? What do you hope for?
We hope to see either stabilisation or a fall in the incidence.
What’s next? Can self-isolation be cancelled then?
Both stabilisation and a fall in the incidence are good signs. There will be made a decision to either tighten the isolation measures or soften the regime depending on the signs. But it will anyway take some time to completely cancel self-isolation. Self-distancing, minimisation of contact of people will still be important for some time.
Is there a probability that we will stay in self-isolation in May too?
It depends on how strictly we will meet the rules of self-isolation.
It will anyway take some time to completely cancel self-isolation. Self-distancing, minimisation of contact of people will still be important for some time
When quantity doesn’t mean quality
You say that the maximum self-distancing is needed, while the list of organisations whose workers may go to work according to a letter sent by the Tatarstan Cabinet of Ministers to the Ministry of Internal Affairs has nine lines. Won’t they be spreading the disease?
I don’t think this quantity of people will reduce the effectiveness of the measures taken for self-distancing. This list can be long, but anyway, these people are a small part of the population of the republic.
“No secondary infection”
Little was known about COVID-19 earlier this year. What do you know about it now?
One thing is certain — the virus is airborne, though it can be transmitted in the air too. This is why it is still important to wear gloves, wash our hands.
It is rumoured that its incubation period is more than two weeks…
No, the incubation period is 14 days.
Is there immunity after the disease or the infection can be contracted for the second time?
We received data that there is immunity after suffering the disease. There is no secondary infection. Now it is planned to examine the immunity level of those who recovered from it — doctors and scientists will find out the effectiveness of antibodies produced by the organism.
One thing is certain — the virus is airborne, though it can be transmitted in the air too. This is why it is still important to wear gloves, wash our hands
Vaccine will appear soon, but injection may not be needed
A vaccine against COVID-19 has being created for more than a month. When can it be ready?
It is being developed in many labs around the world. But it takes much time to create a vaccine. Given this, even if the time for testing is reduced, it can take from six to nine months. A vaccine can appear in September-October, not earlier.
Will we compulsorily be administered injections then? Is it forever?
Everything depends on the further evolution of the virus. It can be a usual coronavirus with usual ups and downs in autumn and spring. In this case, there won’t maybe be needed any injections.
I didn’t notice myself I was ill
Do many people have COVID-19 without symptoms? If so, are we correctly assessing the situation? Perhaps, we shouldn’t have introduced strict self-isolation.
There are coronavirus infection forms without symptoms, such a case was registered in Kazan too — with slight symptoms. We met the patient only because the person arrived from abroad. He felt quite good, his medical history had just slights symptoms of acute respiratory infection. But he said he had a cough and a short-term rise in temperature — and the test showed he had the virus.
Does it mean the virus isn’t dangerous for everybody?
Everything depends on a person’s immune system we don’t thoroughly understand.
We are monitoring all pneumonia cases. We are compulsorily testing patients with pneumonia for coronavirus to understand the spread of the virus
Pneumonia? Do a test!
But if people recover from the disease without symptoms, don’t see a doctor, they uncontrollably spread the virus. And this can’t be impeded — why are the strict measures for?
We test people not only with COVID-19 symptoms but also those without symptoms, and not only those who arrived from other countries. We are monitoring all pneumonia cases. We are compulsorily testing patients with pneumonia for coronavirus to understand the spread of the virus.
Have there been found many people whose pneumonia was caused by the virus?
Such pneumonia is detected only among those who have been abroad. It is a small part of all diagnosed pneumonia cases, the locals who haven’t been abroad don’t have pneumonia caused by the coronavirus.
“They didn’t fall ill at the same time”
It became known on 6 April that 16 people had COVID-19 in Tatarstan at once. Why is the rate so high?
We should understand that it is confirmed cases — those examined in labs. These patients with suspected coronavirus were already taken to the hospital, we knew beforehand what we were dealing with and we just received the confirmation of our conclusions. They didn’t fall ill at the same time — just the confirmation arrived on one day.
What age are the people in the hospital for infectious disease now? How are they doing?
The age varies from 19 to 74 years, they all have a mild or moderate course of the disease.
The confirmed cases are those examined in labs. These patients with suspected coronavirus were already taken to the hospital, we knew beforehand what we were dealing with and we just received the confirmation of our conclusions
“Our people are disciplined”
Are people here in Tatarstan who must stay home in self-isolation, under supervision of doctors disciplined? Don’t they rush to work? Do they serve the 14-day term?
We don’t have people who are going to work at the moment.
“It depends on diseases, not age”
Who has contracted the coronavirus in the republic? Is it those who have been abroad?
It is either those have been abroad or has been in contact with them. Thank God, we haven’t detected people who have gone to a shop and got infected.
Does the severity of the disease depend on age?
One can fall ill at any age. But children are falling ill less. While the course of the disease depends on the age and a person’s specific diseases. Ordinary, healthy people go through the disease without symptoms, the elderly are at risk.
One can fall ill at any age. But children are falling ill less. While the course of the disease depends on the age and a person’s specific diseases
Is the situation in Russia objectively better than in Europe? Is our coronavirus death toll lower?
It is hard to tell — there isn’t enough data. At first sight, the situation in Italy is much worse. But people who are 85-90 years are dying. A person at this age can die from any disease. I would like to learn the death toll they had a year ago.