Patience test: Kazan tourists complain about problems with COVID-19 testing

Disorder and queues for COVID-19 testing upon arrival in Kazan make many doubt the authenticity of the results

Patience test: Kazan tourists complain about problems with COVID-19 testing
Photo: Ilya Repin

COVID-19 testing for the spouses V. who returned to Kazan from holiday turned into divulgence of personal data and at the same time medical privacy. The Tatarstan Centre of Hygiene and Epidemiology, which provided this fee-based service to them directly at the airport, sent the results to God knows whom. Read in Realnoe Vremya’s report about the peculiarities of the organisation of testing near the ramp and possible consequences of the mess.

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Marina and Ivan from Kazan who were on holiday in Turkey lined up in a queue for testing on 28 September evening immediately upon arrival.

“We arrived late, were sleepy and tired but decided to do a PCR test directly at the airport,” Marina said. “My husband had to go to work on Monday, and we were afraid the results would be late. We went to the doors of the hall where a PCR test was done. There was a crowd there, mess, confusion. There was simply no place to thoughtfully read an agreement with the Centre of Hygiene and Epidemiology in small print — one has to do everything in a hurry. I filled it in somehow, checked it a hundred times if I wrote my phone number and e-mail correctly where the results were going to be sent. Then I paid for the tests, then my husband and I waited for our turn to do a PCR test...”

According to the tourist, she was unpleasantly surprised by the organisation of how the biomaterial was collected:

“Everything was done in a rush, they barely looked at m passport, and health workers had only one question for both us and other people who did this test at the airport: ‘Have you paid? Show the receipt!’ Then only test tubes flashed, that’s it. ‘Next!’.”

On Thursday, Marina received an SMS from the Tatarstan Centre for Hygiene and Epidemiology: “The results of the testing have been sent to the e-mail...”, and the tourist didn’t know the e-mail indicated. The woman began to call the number in the Notice for Travellers spread at the airport and she took a photo of.

So now the spouses doubt: if the laboratory got the e-mail wrong, does it guarantee that they didn’t get the test tubes with the biomaterial in a hurry wrong as well? Photo: Ilya Repin

“An employee who answered offered to dictate her the correct address but I didn’t do it — what if she writes it down wrong,” Marina said. I say: ‘Please, find my agreement, everything is correctly indicated there.’”

A couple of hours later, the results of the testing were sent to Marina V.’s real address. It was negative. So now the spouses doubt: if the laboratory got the e-mail wrong, does it guarantee that they didn’t get the test tubes with the biomaterial in a hurry wrong as well?

Pay for mistake

“We paid 2,540 rubles for two tests, it is little, of course, compared to the value of the holiday,” Marina says. “On the other hand, the sum we paid for this service is far from being symbolic. Most importantly, what if these aren’t our tests? It isn’t burnt beefsteak in a restaurant, here it is an important issue, and mistakes aren’t allowed. We have little grandchildren, our daughter is still breastfeeding her youngest son, this can put her in danger. Moreover, all the testing procedure takes place amid such a clash of people that it is easy to arrive healthy from holiday and get infected here if there are COVID-19 patients among the passengers.”

The woman isn’t happy that the information that she and her husband don’t have the coronavirus infection was sent to somebody’s e-mail together with her name, surname, patronymic and birth date:

“I didn’t permit the Centre for Hygiene and Epidemiology to send my personal data to anybody. Fine, we’re healthy, and if the infection was confirmed and people who know us and are hostile to us receive the information about it?”

Most importantly, not healthy but fast?

The first complaint about the mess and clash in PRC testing at the Kazan airport appeared on social media. “Two planes 15 minutes landed simultaneously from Turkey,” a tourist from Kazan said. “Each plane had 300 passengers. The airport has just three rooms for testing where 600 people rushed. I will say nothing about the organisation. Imagine there will be at least one infected person in this crowd, the other 599 people will also probably be infected.”

It turned out that the holidaymakers don’t have a choice — either you line up in the queue or pay a fine. Photo: Ilya Repin

It turned out that the holidaymakers don’t have a choice — either you line up in the queue or pay a fine because just three days are given to do a test and upload the results of the test to the Russian United Portal of State and Municipal Services by the decree of the Russian chief state sanitary doctor No. 22 as of 27.07.2020. While the results of the test will be ready precisely in three days at best. As those who wanted to avoid the queue at the airport and do the test in a private laboratory write on social media, it is necessary to register beforehand and it doesn’t guarantee that there will be an appointment for the day of arrival, as COVID-19 labs are still busy.

What especially gladdens is that even the Notice for Travellers at the airport reads: “The PCR test for COVID-19 will be ready in five days after the test is done”. So even the most disciplined tourists a priori break the law and can be fined.

Airport — phone — protocol

The press service of Russia’s consumer rights protection watchdog in Tatarstan told Realnoe Vremya that “all citizens of Russia regardless of their age, including children arriving from abroad have been obliged to do a PCR test for coronavirus infection and remain in isolation before obtaining a negative result since 1 August”.

At a press conference on 2 October, head of Russia’s consumer rights protection watchdog in Tatarstan Marina Patyashina said that sanitary doctors work if Tatarstan residents coming from abroad don’t meet the three-day deadline.

“We have lists of travellers with their surnames, moreover, citizens themselves fill in a questionnaire where they write down their phone numbers,” she said. “At the first stage (Editor’s Note: if information about the results of tests don’t appear on State Services three days later), we call the citizen and find out the reason (Editor’s Note: why there is no information). Citizens usually have the results but didn’t manage to upload it, for instance, children didn’t come around to the elderly, while they didn’t manage to do it on their own.”

According to Patyashina, the watchdog offers such citizens to email the results of the test, which is, we should note, is also hard to do for those who can’t go to State Services. And if the citizen doesn’t answer phone calls and it turns out he didn’t do a test or refuses to do it, the information about him is sent to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and then the scheme is “protocol — court — fine”.

“Nowadays, 97,5% of people who are back have done the test for the coronavirus infection and met the deadline established by legislation,” Patyashina claimed.

The press service of Russia’s consumer rights protection watchdog in Tatarstan told Realnoe Vremya: “There have been created 60 protocols on administrative offence in Part 2 Article 6.3 of Russia’s Code of Administrative Offences for violating the established requirements (of which 27 are protocols on administrative offence created by specialists of the watchdog in Tatarstan and 33 protocols by the police). The materials were sent to courts for consideration. Courts have considered 14 materials, all citizens have been held accountable (fines equal to 109,500 rubles in total). The other materials are in process.”

What’s forbidden in bus is allowed at airport?

According to Marina Patyashina, 11 cases of the coronavirus infection from Turkey were registered in Tatarstan as of 2 October. And she named public transport as the main place to get infected where not only passengers but also conductors often don’t wear a mask. Moreover, citizens of Kazan themselves fear of catching the virus in buses not because of the absence of mask but basically throng where no mask will save from infection.

In reply to the message about queues and a dangerous crowd of tourists who do PCR tests at the airport of Kazan, the press service disagreed: “There is no queue now”. It turned out that to reduce queues, the laboratory of Hospital No. 7 also began to do the tests apart from the laboratory of the Centre for Hygiene and Epidemiology.

But we should add just to be fair that the queues, mess and other difficulties with doing a test for coronavirus upon arrival from abroad are seen not only in Kazan. The situation isn’t better in Moscow — social networks are full of complaints and photos from Vnukovo, Sheremetyevo and Domodedovo.

By Inna Serova
Tatarstan