The primary means of protection in the era of the coronavirus, the mask has become a rare commodity in Russia : sold out in pharmacies, it is trading to the mail-to area, is sold on the internet and can be sewn at home.
As in many other countries, masks, gloves and other means of protection have quickly disappeared from the pharmacies and supermarkets from the beginning of the outbreak of coronavirus, which has reached Russia in march and has since made more than 100 000 infected and 1,000 deaths.
The shortages have forced the Russian public, companies wanting to protect their employees, but also physicians and nurses to provide via other channels more or less legal.
“There is a lack of means of protection in all regions. Almost all hospitals have problems and in most of them, the situation is close to being critical “, if alarm Andrey Konoval, co-chair of the trade union of doctors Action.
According to him, the majority of medical personnel, does being ” not supplied “, is obliged to acquire by its own means the equipment essential to his work. “With their salaries, it’s impossible to buy enough, so many are doing in washing the masks or using them for extended periods of time,” adds Mr Konoval.
This situation was confirmed by the doctors interviewed by the AFP.
“I have given materials to all of my friends are doctors so they can sew their own masks, because there was a lack of catastrophic,” testifies Natalia Eïsmont, a general practitioner in the Sverdlovsk region.
“Unfortunately, it often happens that it is necessary to purchase the means of protection on the black market “, also recognized Boris Tchouradzé, the head physician of the hospital, K+31 in Moscow, during a visit last week to his institution, which treats about 70 patients with the COVID-19.
Messaging and announcements
Recognizing the shortages, president Vladimir Putin ordered the creation of a “federal reserve” means of protection that would provide the hospitals.
But for the ordinary Russians, the only way to provide masks rest of the to buy on the black market.
On WhatsApp, the offers abound in discussions of group private area, or district, usually used to share local information among neighbors.
“Good evening! I have masks three layers to 55 rubles (0.70 euros) room ” indicates, for example, a message being viewed by the AFP in a group of residents of the Moscow region, accompanied by a photo of the masks in what appears to be a warehouse full of cardboard boxes.
This type of mask, single-use, which cost only a few rubles before the pandemic, should in theory be replaced every 4 hours. Others offer masks “reusable” hand-sewn.
On Telegram, another messaging popular, the ads are more ambitious : photos, sellers offer tens of thousands of surgical masks, masks FFP and more sophisticated screening tests or of the disinfectant by the tens of litres.
On ad sites Avito and Youla, offerings number in the hundreds with home delivery.
“Lost the battle “
The authorities at first attempted to curb this market, which has attracted opportunists. In early April, the government banned the sale of masks and gloves outside the pharmacy, before going back on his decision a week later.
According to one pharmacist interviewed by the AFP under cover of anonymity, the absence of masks-rays is also maintained voluntarily, for fear of the pharmacies of losing their license, president Vladimir Putin has promised to punish those who increase the prices.
“When the epidemic of coronavirus has started, the suppliers have inflated prices and we have stopped buying for fear that we remove our license. We obviously cannot sell them for less than what you paid for it “, she explains.
The authorities say they have taken steps to increase the production. According to Vladimir Putin, Russia is now capable of producing 8.5 million protective masks per day, but the bureaucracy often delays shipments, according to contractors and doctors interviewed in the media.
“Steps are being taken and the authorities are trying to resolve the problem,” admits Andrei Konoval the union’s Action, but felt that these initiatives are too late : “It seems to me that we have lost this battle “.