Marat Sadykov: 'We thought that Covid-19 would end in 2020, but…'

More than 2,000 Tatarstan citizens have already died from COVID-19 and its complications — and more than 30 mutations have replaced the former coronavirus

Tatarstan is expecting with concern a new wave of coronavirus cases, Healthcare Minister of Tatarstan Marat Sadykov said on 15 June. Currently, 38 COVID-19 strains have been recorded in the region, which have already led to an increase in the severity of the disease, and representatives of not only the old, but also the young generation. The doses of drugs for the treatment of Covid-19, compared to 2020, have to be doubled: the mutated virus is not so easy to overcome. And Tatarstan citizens are not in a hurry to get vaccinated for some reason.

“Now it is the younger generation who is infected more often”

“The year 2020 was an extremely difficult year. The coronavirus infection has had a significant impact on our healthcare system, but we have withstood the blow. But the enemy has not been defeated, the enemy is strong, the enemy is cunning! We see a tendency towards an increase the incidence in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and a number of major cities. The threat [of a new wave of coronavirus in the Republic of Tatarstan] remains. No one would like to return to the spring-summer-winter of 2020, when we received two waves of morbidity, which affected the overall mortality rate," Marat Sadykov stated with regret.

Today, he noted, any resident of Tatarstan has two ways: either vaccination, or disease with Covid-19 and hospital. In the latter case — “who will be lucky”. Especially since the virus is mutating. At the moment, more than 38 coronavirus strains have already been registered in the region, some of them have already affected the increase in the severity of the COVID-19 disease, although all tests for determining all strains are available in the Republic of Tatarstan. In the case of clinically incomprehensible symptoms, Tatarstan doctors double-check for coronavirus mutations in Rospotrebnadzor.

“Now it is the younger generation who is infected more often. And young people become hotbeds of the disease. The thing is that the mutation has affected the severity of the disease. Patients with more severe degrees of the disease are already being admitted. Finally, even if people have already been ill earlier, they have complications. They get these complications sometimes with a fatal outcome. Previously, the virus affected mainly the lungs. But it can eventually affect the central nervous system, kidneys, heart! The mutation has also affected that the doses of drugs for the treatment of patients with Covid-19, compared to 2020, had to be increased! The previous doses for treatment do not work, they have been increased by 2 times! And these drugs, by the way, suppress the immune system," without hiding emotions, the minister of healthcare of Tatarstan said.

“Either we get sick or we get vaccinated”

Therefore, Sadykov says, the only and correct way is vaccination. Moreover, according to him, the whole world is now being vaccinated: Israel has vaccinated more than 90% of the population, 800 million Chinese have been vaccinated, and many people in the United States have already been vaccinated. Whereas in Russia, vaccination is going very difficult. So far, more than 30 million Russians and only 428,000 people in Tatarstan have been vaccinated against coronavirus (this is only 11% of the total population of the republic), despite that Russia already has three types of vaccines.

At the moment, in Tatarstan alone, there are 77,500 doses of Sputnik, in the coming days another 41,500 will be received (excluding EpiVacCorona and CoviVac). Sputnik Light is registered, but has not yet reached the stage of industrial production. At one time, the Ministry of Healthcare even tried to “bring vaccination closer to the population”, opened vaccination points in shopping centres, metro stations, and tried in horticultural societies, “but they did not get the result that they would like”. Only 6-7 thousand people have been vaccinated, although we could have vaccinated up to 15,000 Tatarstan citizens in the mobilization points and opened up to 250 vaccination points.

“We thought that Covid-19 would end in 2020, but unfortunately, it continues. We are seeing some growth today. Yes, we saw a slight upturn a month ago, and then a downturn was after it. But for several weeks now, we in Tatarstan are at a stage where the number of cases is not increasing, but it is not decreasing either. It's very early to calm down. Very early! Either we get sick, or we get vaccinated," said the head of the ministry of healthcare of the Republic of Tatarstan.

How Ministry of Healthcare of Tatarstan explains the increase in population decline by 72 times

The natural population decline in Tatarstan last year was 12,900 people. A year earlier, the figure was 180 people, and the media paid attention — the figure increased 72 times. However, this is not a disaster, Sadykov noted: the year 2019 was one of the best years for Tatarstan in terms of low mortality in the last 30 years — the last time it was in 1990-1991.

“It was a peak year, we could do everything to save the lives of Tatarstan citizens. Mostly the lives of the older generation, the contingent of survivors over the age of 80 has increased. Life expectancy reached 75,3 years, the highest in the Volga Federal District. Population decline is associated with two factors — birth rate and mortality. But with the birth rate, we have fallen into a demographic pit: there are not so many women of fertile age who can and want to give birth. The measures of Tatarstan have not led to the expected results," Marat Sadykov admitted with regret.

In 2020, the year of the pandemic, the death rate, according to him, increased by more than 12,000 people. According to Marat Sadykov, 518 people died from the coronavirus itself in the Republic of Tatarstan, and about 2,600 people died from covid-associated complications (the latter suffered from COVID-19, and according to the clinical symptoms, Tatarstan doctors understand that they died from complications: heart attack, stroke, thromboembolism). As of June 15, 21,938 cases of COVID-19 have been registered in the Republic of Tatarstan.

“Fear, rumours about chipping”: what hinders the pace of vaccination in Tatarstan

The new wave of coronavirus, however, can not be compared with last year so far. For comparison: in the summer and autumn of 2020, more than 5,000 beds were deployed in Tatarstan for patients with coronavirus, today it is 2,100 beds, and there is a free reserve “to quickly react in case of a possible increase in the incidence”. There are no plans to introduce any new restrictions in Tatarstan against the background of the growing number of tourists from Moscow and St. Petersburg.

According to Sadykov, “fear, rumours about chipping, various fakes” hinder vaccination. The minister noted that Sputnik was made by the same specialists who successfully counteracted the Ebola virus. On the other hand, it is much harder to get sick (“When there is not enough air, it is panic, fear of the unknown. People may be immune to treatment for Covid-19, no matter what drugs are used! Complications are also impossible to predict”). Therefore, it is better to get vaccinated, the minister believes.

This is necessary even for those who have had a coronavirus. Marat Sadykov noted that the number of antibodies in the body of those who have been ill sooner or later begins to decrease and the vaccination allows the immune system to “get irritated by the virus and react to Covid-19".

Tatarstan authorities do not plan to introduce mandatory vaccination

At the same time, as the head of the Ministry of Healthcare of Tatarstan assured, the authorities of the Republic of Tatarstan do not plan to introduce mandatory vaccination and there are no plans for the number of people vaccinated against coronavirus in the ministry today:

“We have only one task — to keep our residents alive. But the issue of vaccination should not harm those to whom it is contraindicated for various reasons.”

Marat Sadykov also assured our publication that planned operations are carried out in Tatarstan in the same volumes as before Covid-19. As for medical examination, a number of changes have appeared, which includes research methods for determining complications in patients with COVID-19. The authorities of Tatarstan, Sadykov noted, were among the first to introduce special packages of sanatorium treatment for patients who had Сovid-19. Tatarstan is waiting for a general Russian methodology for the rehabilitation of those who have been ill from the federal centre.

Other works have not not curtailed either. In 2020, the Republic of Tatarstan opened branches of the oncological dispensary in Naberezhnye Chelny and Almetyevsk, so that the population could get the necessary treatment without going to Kazan. The Republican oncohematology centre is scheduled to open on June 18. The implementation of national projects related to the modernisation of primary healthcare system of Tatarstan, in particular children's polyclinics, continues.

Almost 10 billion rubles will be spent on the primary link of the medical system of the Republic of Tatarstan

“In the shortest possible time, we opened an infectious diseases hospital. We reformatted the priorities for the restoration of all infectious buildings in municipalities. The fight against cardiovascular diseases also continues. We managed to modernise the republican cancre dispensary. We are going give more than 150 cars to rural areas for feldsher-midwife stations in a few days and buses for transporting patients from villages and settlements. In total, we are going spend more than 2,5 billion rubles on this primary link (including the construction and overhaul of all polyclinics) under the federal target programme. But let me remind you that our region was the first to start this modernisation in 2017-2018, having budgeted 7 billion rubles. This republican programme will also continue to be implemented in 2021," Marat Sadykov promised.

The same applies to paramedic and midwife stations in the regions of the Republic of Tatarstan, their construction and repair: this year, the authorities of the Republic of Tatarstan are going to introduce an additional 44 feldsher-midwife stations. The implementation of the presidential programme of major repairs of hospitals will also continue. In the shortest possible time, the authorities of Tatarstan plan to solve the problem of personnel shortage, while the Ministry of Healthcare welcomed the federal initiative on targeted recruitment to medical universities: now the Republic of Tatarstan can make a target recruitment to the Kazan State Medical University and the Kazan Federal University mainly from graduates of medical schools who previously planned to enroll there and become doctors — “so that they do not leave the profession”.

By Sergey Afanasyev