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Kyrgyzstan: Number of Covid-19 Cases in Issyk Kul Region is Rising

Despite the epidemic, the shores of Issyk Kul are full of visitors. Also, the number of coronavirus cases is rising.

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Day hospital in the town of Karakol. Photo: CABAR.asia

According to official data, the number of Covid-19 positive cases in Issyk Kul region is rising.

According to the advisor to the health minister, Ainura Akmatova, on July 27 the region had only four cases, and three days later there were 13 cases registered.

“On August 1, there were 15 cases registered, on August 2 – 29 cases. The number of cases confirmed clinically and epidemiologically on July 27 was 68, July 28 – 82 cases, July 29 – 155 cases, and July 31 – 81 cases,” Akmatova said.

According to the ministry of health, the number of cases increased in the beginning of July, when tourists came to the region.

“Despite the unstable epidemiologic situation, the number of tourists in Issyk Kul region increased. The number of park visitors in the region reached 110 per cent, and in early June this indicator was 40 per cent,” advisor to the health ministry Akmatova said.

“Also, there are more people visiting public catering places, stores, pharmacies, and resorts. Therefore, we’d like to ask the residents of Issyk Kul region and citizens arriving at Issyk Kul region to keep distance and to limit movements within the region. If the number of confirmed cases increases, the load on health facilities and all health workers will increase,” she added.

The head of the government, Kubatbek Boronov, said about strengthening of quarantine measures.

“Statistics of some districts shows the increase in the number of positive coronavirus cases. Akims of districts must strengthen control over implementation of tasks,” prime minister said at the meeting on July 29. “They should be aware of every patient in hospitals. Also, as the headquarters instructed earlier, they should perform rounds of households in order to detect sick persons. They fail to do this job properly.”

Despite the surge of the pandemic in the country in the last few months, hospitals of Issyk Kul region were not ready to the last flow of patients during the peak of disease.

A resident of Karakol, Munara Musaeva, said that when her mother developed pneumonia, the family could not hospitalise the woman.

“Our mother has chronic diseases. When she developed pneumonia, she had laboured breathing, high temperature. We were frightened so much,” Musaeva said to the journalist of CABAR.asia. “The local hospital did not have free beds, so they prescribed medications and refused hospitalisation.”

“Moreover, we could hardly find any medications in the town,” she said. “We called our relatives in Bishkek, they said they had no such medications, either. Then we went to the volunteer headquarters organised by the young people of Karakol. They provided us every day with the prescribed antibiotic Levofloxacin and blood thinner Kleksan. Twice a day we took mother to the day hospital and she underwent the whole course of treatment and recovered.”

Maksat Akhmatov. Photo: CABAR.asia

Maksat Akhmatov, an anaesthesiologist-resuscitator, working at the Issyk Kul regional combined hospital, said that the outbreak of the disease was expected, yet they did not expect a large flow of patients.

“The stock of available medications and PPEs were in great shortage. All health workers in the town started working in observatories, in red zone. We were running out of doctors, paramedical staff and medical attendants. We did not have enough oxygen concentrators, antibiotics. It’s very sad that our officials did not react to the situation they saw,” the doctor said to CABAR.asia.

The resuscitator said that in the first week of July, when the outburst took place, the infectious disease unit of the regional hospital was fully reequipped for the observatory.

“A bit later, the flow of patients increased drastically and we had to reequip the hospital for the observatory with over than 500 beds,” Maksat Akhmatov said. “We did not have enough health workers, so we had to invite nurses from Ak Suu district hospital. The load on doctors was huge because they became sick and there was no one to replace them. Three days ago, volunteer doctors came here from Osh.”

Akhmatov noted that volunteers, activists and various sponsors provided significant financial support to the medical facility.

“They reacted immediately and delivered to our hospital oxygen concentrators, food for those who worked in the red zone. Moreover, businessmen and residents collected 600 thousand som, and 300 thousand som were used to purchase necessary medications, which were distributed among those who could not afford to buy medications. The rest of medications was distributed among health workers working in red zone,” he said.

Situation in Cholpon Ata

Hospitals in Cholpon Ata were found to be in a similar situation: shortage of medications, doctors, PPEs for health workers.

“Before I came to Cholpon Ata, I worked in red zones in Bishkek,” resuscitator Edilbek Zhekshenaliev said. “When we came here, we were surprised with large numbers of patients. At first, it was very difficult, we did not have elementary things: PPEs, equipment. When I came here, I took almost all PPEs from Bishkek. At first, we used them.”

“Upon arrival, I started working in the hospital on the base of children’s camp Altyn Balalyk,” she told. “As the building was not a hospital, it had nothing. Sometimes, patients shared their single dose medications. Thanks to the people, active citizens, today there are enough medications, oxygen concentrators, PPEs. Loads on medical staff, including doctors and nurses, were very heavy. Nurses were almost our eyes and hands, they had to work extra hours. However, today we have doctors and nurses from other regions. The peak of patients was 75-80 patients».

Photo courtesy of volunteer Edil Ibraev.

According to volunteer Edil Ibraev, the young people of the town of Cholpon Ata organised the headquarters and started to collect money for medications, oxygen concentrators, PPEs for doctors and distribute them.

“When there were more patients, I went to the hospital and talked to the late resuscitator Sarbagysh Imanaliev. He showed the hospital to me, and said the number of patients was rising, and they lacked medications. He gave me the number of things they needed. Afterwards, I wrote to a group of Cholpon Ata residents and explained the situation. Then we made a video with the participation of prominent people of the town so that people did not think we were swindlers. Thus, we began to collect money and used them to buy all necessary things in Bishkek. Moreover, not only local businessmen, but small shops supported us. People supported us by transferring money to us, sending oxygen concentrators from our compatriots from Europe, United States of America, China and Russia,” the activist said.

Moreover, Ibraev is the head of a mobile group in Cholpon Ata. “When there was the peak of disease, there were people who could not reach doctors, so we organised a mobile group. The volunteers of the mobile group of Bishkek from the Centre of Initiative Youth (CIY) shared their experience with us, we bought a car, CIY provided us with concentrators, we started to move along Cholpon Ata, villages of Issyk Kul District, visited those who could not reach the hospital. We increased oxygen saturation level to them, made injections prescribed by doctors. One car always have three people in it, including one health worker,” Ibraev said.

Press secretary of the representation of the government in Issyk Kul region Zhanybek Kozhoev said there are 16 buildings of infectious disease isolation wards for 1,017 beds in Issyk Kul region.

“Out of them, 759 beds are occupied, 358 are free. The number of oxygen concentrators is over 500, lung ventilators are 40. Thus, centralised oxygen systems are installed in Ak Suu district and the town of Balykchy, which can serve up to 75 persons,” he said.

According to him, 1,731 beds in day hospitals were made available in six locations in Karakol, in 3 locations in Balykchy, in 16 locations in Zheti Oguz, in 13 locations in Ton district, in 28 locations in Ak Suu district, in 44 locations in Tyup district, in 37 locations in Issyk Kul district.

“Currently, we are strengthening Zheti Oguz district as it faces the rise in the number of positive cases. We refer all doctors we have in reserve there,” the press secretary said.

Kozhoev added that in July 24 the total amount of humanitarian aid received from the people was nearly 13 million som.

Situation in villages

Rural health post in the village of Korumdu, Tyup district, Issyk Kul region. Photo: CABAR.asia

The situation in day hospitals of small villages is no better. In the village of Korumdu, Tyup district, Issyk Kul region, with population over 2,000, there are only two nurses.

The day hospital is located in the building of a local rural health post (FAP). Nurse Nurgul Sooronbaeva said that they had a small stock of medications when villagers began to get sick on a large scale.

Nurse Nurgul Sooronbaeva is making an IV injection. Photo: CABAR.asia

“The senior nurse in our FAP was on leave back then, so I had to work alone. All villagers came with slight temperature and complained about cold fit, some had sore throat,” Sooronbaeva told CABAR.asia. “I administered them whatever we had: antipyretic medications, some antibiotics. No one has taught us how to treat COVID, the nearest hospital was closed for quarantine and all sick people were banned from leaving the village. It was scary to be left alone with some unknown disease and without medications.”

“Every day I went to work and wanted to hear something good from my patients,” she said. “People saw I did not have medications and asked other people who lived in cities, worked in Russia. Some people brought mattresses, some – syringes, some – normal saline, some bought beds to us. The Red Cross have been very helpful, they provided us with PPEs and some medications. I asked the doctors I knew and nurses about their methods of treatment. In the evenings, I took online classes from Bishkek-based doctors… Overall, I was dealing with this issue as good as I could.”

“I made IV injections to 15-20 citizens twice a day. I had to turn the vaccination room into a medical treatment room. Every day there were long lines at the FAP. I was at work from 7:30 to 20:00. And I have worked without days off for two months already. I am thankful to activists, all sponsors who provided us with everything we needed,” Nurgul Sooronbaeva, the nurse of the rural health post in the village of Tyup.

Amid the rise in coronavirus cases, the plenipotentiary of the government was replaced in Issyk Kul. The new plenipotentiary became the former head of the mayor’s office of the capital, Balbak Tulobaev. Some users of social media expressed their approval of this appointment, they thought that Tulobaev in Bishkek was responsible for prevention and spread of coronavirus infection, and would show good result in Issyk Kul; while others were negative about it. 

This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project implemented with the financial support of the Foreign Ministry of Norway.

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