Border-opening and health-care in Abkhazia: interview with Tamaz Tsakhnakia

Tamaz Tsakhnakia, The Minister of Health of the Republic of Abkhazia

At the end of July, cases of coronavirus-infection became more frequent in Abkhazia. Most of the infected are health-workers and their family-members.

The Minister of Health of Abkhazia Tamaz Tsakhnakia told Radio Sputnik whether or not Abkhazian medicine can cope with the influx of tourists, why visitors are not tested at the border, and how to act for those who have discovered symptoms of coronavirus.

- Tamaz Murmanovich [Tsakhnakia], on 1 August the Russian-Abkhazian border was opened, and a stream of tourists poured into the republic. How do you assess the situation from the point of view of the health-care system in this regard?

- We cannot talk about any kind of assessment, since everything has just begun. Let's see how the situation develops over the course of three weeks. The main thing is to follow the rules of prevention, try to observe personal-hygiene measures, and wear masks in crowded places. These rules have not been cancelled, all organisations where tourists are accommodated, or catering-systems have their instructions. From the experience of Sochi, we see that there is a huge number of tourists, and no more than five or six people are detected per day.

- When crossing the state-border, will the state of people's health be determined?

- Previously, when there were five people crossing, it was easy to do. Now that there are a thousand of them, it is more difficult. People would have to stand in line for days. It is unrealistic to do this, because a person who walks from the Russian border to ours under the scorching sun gets hot. Neither the thermal imager nor the thermometer could provide reliable information in this case.

- Currently the Ministry of Health’s hot-line is not functioning in the republic. What should people do if they suspect they have symptoms of infection?

- Yes, indeed, there are technical problems, but we will ask the mobile-operator to return to the previous operating mode. If a person has suspicions, you need to contact your doctor or a local doctor.

- What should the residents of the regions of Abkhazia do?

- As for the residents of Abkhazia’s regions, there is a certain routing-scheme. In each district, one car is allocated, which transports the patient, if necessary, to the Gudauta hospital.

- Are there enough laboratory-assistants in the republic who are engaged in identifying test results?

- The more testing needs to be done, the more difficult it is for us. There are three laboratory-assistants who can deal with PCR diagnostics, but we plan to send two more to advanced training courses. They know the methods of laboratory-diagnostics, and it will be easier for them to master the new technique. I would also like to add that on 8 August, a CT scanner will be delivered to Abkhazia. In the Gudauta hospital, a room has already been set aside for it.

- At a meeting of the headquarters, your deputy said that, if the epidemiological situation worsened, the Abkhazian health care system could "choke". Do you agree with him?

- You see, we prepared a medical facility based on the size of our population. Per 100 thousand of the population, it is assumed that 20 seriously ill patients need artificial ventilation. This is about 60 people, based on our population. According to statistics, of all cases, 80% are asymptomatic carriers, 2.5% are seriously ill. I can say that for now we are within these parameters.

- Many said that with the onset of heat, there will be a decline in infection cases. Is there any logic in this? 

- It is believed that, yes, that ultraviolet light does have an effect. In addition, in the heat, people do not sit in crowded rooms. They go outside and, if there is no very close contact, they are less likely to get infected.

This interview was published by Sputnik Abkhazia and is translated from Russian.

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