The Journal Gazette
Thursday, February 13, 2020 1:00 am

In Russia, 2 women flee virus quarantine

Criticize hospital policies, conditions in online posts

Associated Press

MOSCOW – One patient jumped out of a hospital window to escape her quarantine, and another managed to break out by disabling an electronic lock.

Two Russian women who were kept in isolation for possible infection by a new virus say they fled from their Russian hospitals this month because of uncooperative doctors, poor conditions and fear they would become infected. Russian health authorities haven't commented on their complaints.

The incidents occurred amid the outbreak of the virus in China that has already infected some 45,000 people worldwide. In Russia, only two cases of the disease COVID-19 have been reported. Nevertheless, the authorities took vast measures to prevent the new disease from spreading and hospitalized hundreds of people who returned from China as a precaution.

Both women said their hospital ordeals began after returning from Hainan, a tropical region of China popular with Russian tourists.

In a lengthy account on Instagram published Friday, a woman with the screen name of GuzelNeder said her son came down with a cough and a fever four days after the family's return to their home in the city of Samara. She called emergency services, who said the mother and the son must go to a hospital for coronavirus tests.

The hospital promised test results within three days, then extended it to five, she said. Meanwhile, the boy responded to treatment with medication and an inhalator, she wrote. When she tried to press for results, hospital personnel obstructed her, she said.

During the quarantine, she wrote, she became concerned about lax procedures in the hospital, saying some medical personnel came to the isolation area without masks or threw their protective clothing on the floor.

On the fifth day, when she began to feel badly, she asked her husband to bring her a home pregnancy test, and “after two minutes of wringing my hands in anticipation, it came on the screen – PREGNANT,” she wrote.

Her husband argued with the doctor that she and their son should be released because of her condition and concern of infection. The doctor said they had to be held for 14 days even if the virus test came back negative.

“My son was hysterical,” she wrote. “There was no exit for us other than to leave the hospital without authorization, through the window.”

Police later questioned her at home, but no charges have been reported. “Everyone in my family is alive and healthy, thank god,” she wrote.

The other woman, Alla Ilyina, said in an Instagram post she came down with a sore throat several days after returning to St. Petersburg.

Ilyina called emergency services, and medics brought her to a hospital for coronavirus testing, promising to let her go after 24 hours. The next day, she was told she tested negative but had to remain quarantined for two weeks.

“Wild,” Ilyina wrote. “All three tests showed I was completely healthy, so why the hell the quarantine?”

Her isolation room was dire, she told the Fontanka newspaper – no books, no shampoo, no Wi-Fi, a wastebasket that was never emptied, the door secured by an electronic lock.

Frustrated, she figured out how to short-circuit the electronic lock and escaped from the hospital Friday.

Neither the hospital nor police have followed up on her escape, which leads her to believe her health is OK.

“If I were sick, they would have swamped me with phone calls,” Fontanka quoted her as saying.

Quarantine protocols in relation to the outbreak vary throughout Russia. In some regions, health officials isolate Chinese nationals who have recently returned from China, and in others everyone who reports symptoms resembling those of the new virus are subject to a 14-day quarantine.

On Wednesday, the Fontanka newspaper published a video reportedly recorded by other patients quarantined in the same hospital Ilyina fled from. The footage shows two young women in what appears to be a patient room singing “I want to be like Alla (Ilyina)” and a handwritten note saying “Let us out of here, please.”


Number of new cases falls for second straight day

The number of new cases of the coronavirus in China dropped for a second straight day, health officials said Wednesday in a possible glimmer of hope amid the outbreak that has infected over 45,000 people worldwide and killed more than 1,100.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, meanwhile, promised tax cuts and other aid to industry as the ruling Communist Party tries to limit the mounting damage to the economy. And in Japan, 39 new cases were confirmed on a cruise ship quarantined at Yokohama, bringing the total to 174 on the Diamond Princess.

Cruise ship rejected by 4 nations to dock in Cambodia

The operators of a cruise ship that was barred from docking by four governments over fears of a new virus that originated in China announced Wednesday that it will finally disembark passengers in Cambodia.

Thailand refused Tuesday to allow the MS Westerdam to dock at a Thai port after it had already been turned away by the Philippines, Taiwan and Japan. The ship was unwelcome despite assurances from operator Holland America Line that no cases of the viral disease known as COVID-19 have been confirmed among the more than 2,200 passengers and crew on board.

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