What is the danger of the new wave of COVID-19 in Belarus?
A doctor of a regional Belarusian hospital, who works in the "red zone", has told the Charter97.org website about the real situation with "omicron" in Belarus. According to him, an epidemic of this strain COVID-19 could have very serious consequences for the Belarusian medicine:
- "Omicron" has proven to be much more contagious than all previous strains of the coronavirus. The virus has acquired very tenacious spines which enable it to penetrate easily into the human cell. Certainly, it is worth paying attention to some basic means of protection and hygiene, but I would advise just avoiding crowds of people, because ordinary rag masks are not that effective against this strain.
I should point out that the patients have become much younger. It's no secret that children are now getting sick, even newborns. Sometimes they get very seriously ill.
- Do you have children infected with Omicron in your hospital?
- Yes, there are some young schoolchildren who have had to be hospitalised. Infected children come regularly. Schools today have become a real hotbed of infection. This is the major difference between Omicron and previous strains. Whereas in the past children were only carriers of the virus, they are now getting sick overwhelmingly.
It is simply terrifying to see an eight-year-old child with senile shortness of breath and chest pains. Sometimes the infection hits the intestines, causes severe vomiting, and some children get a rash.
I'm not a virologist, but it is absolutely certain that if we let the virus develop among the children today, the next strain could become a sort of a 'Wuhan' one for the older generation, when COVID-19 was mowing down the elderly. In addition, parents are not as willing to vaccinate children, which is a big mistake.
Considering adults and the older generation, the degree of severity depends on the vaccination. Those who have not been vaccinated recently may not even notice that they have been infected with omicron, as it is quite rare for smells and tastes to disappear after being infected with this strain. Unvaccinated people, however, get the full "bunch" of symptoms: shortness of breath, loss of voice, headaches, sore eyes and ears. The symptoms are varied, making the virus particularly unpleasant and dangerous.
- Lukashenka suggested that "everyone should go through the Omicron, since it is quite easy to bear". What can such a strategy of reacting to the epidemic lead to?
- First of all, this man who calls himself "head of state" should think about his children.
Also, erroneous conclusions have been drawn from WHO statements. I have heard that a lot of public virologists have stated that we will all get omicron and there is no need to worry about it. However, it is a different situation in countries where more than 70% of the population is vaccinated and they may take it lightly.
Yes, this virus is not as fatal, during previous waves the mortality rate was colossal, now people cope. However, we will have a huge number of severe patients and pressure on the whole sphere of medicine.
Belarus is lagging behind in the ranking of countries in terms of the number of fully vaccinated people. Childhood vaccination is at an even lower level. Today, it is recognized in Europe that a booster dose, a third one, helps against the spread of omicron. And we have a huge number of people who are not even vaccinated with the first one.
I think that if this concept is implemented, we will have a collapse of the health care system, it will simply break down. Many of those who are not vaccinated will end up in hospital. It will also expand the range of patients - children will get sick. We can expect overcrowded medical wards in the end of the day. No one has cancelled the delayed impact, which will be "post-covid syndrome". We're going to be hit hard with this "tail."
Lots of people will get complications on internal organs: respiratory system, kidneys, liver. Our medicine may simply not be able to cope with such a wave, because it should not be forgotten that the shortage of medical staff is growing every day.
If we take not technical but moral side, such things could be said only by a man, who has not been in "red zones" (costumed shows are not taken into account), who has not heard, how people suffocate, not seen, how relatives of deceased are crying, not looked into eyes of old people dying in few days.
This is a cowardly position, not worthy of a head of state.
Here I am a doctor who works with the sick in the "red zone". Do I also have to get infected today to leave my patients to the merсу of fate? Everything is clear with this "virologist". I am more angry with the officials from the Ministry of Health, who once took the Hippocratic oath, wore white coats, and today are taking up the craziest ideas of their boss.
- How bad is the staff shortage in your hospital today?
- There are not enough people at all levels. Today, they are trying to plug the holes with interns; they have started to involve final-year students in some places, which affects the competence of the care provided. Doctors are tired, because there have been no conditional breaks since the beginning of 2020. There are people who have been working without leave for two years.
Last year the best ones in our hospital were fired because of politics. They did not extend the contracts of those doctors who had been working in our medical facility for decades.
This is just an idiotic policy, as the neighboring countries have launched a real hunt for medical professionals. They made it easier to employ Belarusian doctors in Poland and employ them in Ukraine without any problems. Lower-rank medical personnel are also offered good money abroad. Employees are washed out and there is no serious replacement. Yes, there are those who continue to work out of sheer enthusiasm, but, as they say, they have to eat, too.
I would also draw attention to a problem which is not often talked about - the number of deaths from cancer has increased. The health system has been under stress for more than two years now. Doctors are busy saving lives in "red zones". Cancer wards are sometimes being turned into covid wards, and people are less willing to go to hospitals that have come to resemble "plague barracks". All this leads to a situation where we are no longer able to diagnose cancer in its early stages. It is getting to the point where some patients are simply sent to the hospital to die because there is nothing they can do about it.
- How can you protect yourself and your loved ones today in this situation?
- First and foremost, you need to get vaccinated. Get yourself and your children vaccinated. In my experience, Sputnik V has been quite good. Yes, I myself have a bias against anything Russian, but here we have to admit that this vaccine is as good as the Western ones.
Also let's look at the experience of advanced countries - you need revaccination. If you have already been vaccinated with two doses, do a booster. You can get through Omicron on your feet if you are vaccinated with a third dose.
As cliché as it may sound, we need a lockdown. After all, the contagiousness of the new strain is many times greater. Masks don't work as well as social distance. We need to stop being in crowds all the time. If possible, work remotely; if possible, do not let children go to school, as they are also at risk today.
If you are afraid to introduce a lockdown in the country - there is a European practice with vaccination passports. If you want to go to a cinema, shopping mall or restaurant - show your vaccination certificate.
- Could today's health problems in the country become a protest trigger?
- Let me rephrase a little: one patient's head problems may become the new protest trigger. Obviously, health care problems are adding oil to the general fire of popular discontent.
Many people have lost loved ones, some are gravely ill themselves or have had serious complications from COVID-19, and at the same time TV is telling us all to catch the virus. Covid madness was also one of the reasons why people took to the streets in 2020. A healthy person, at the very least, would have considered this factor and stopped suggesting such experiments. Especially when today we are talking about children's health. I think he does not wish his grandchildren what young Belarusians, who got into hospitals with "omikron", are going through today.