For nearly 20 straight months, Yevgeny Ryabov has watched coronavirus patients come through the doors of his hospital in central Moscow. Until recently, most have not been vaccinated.
The covid-ward coordinator watches how the virus devastates their bodies and, from time to time, he overhears the dying to say that he regrets not getting the jab.
“They usually give some excuse—that they wanted to do it yesterday,” says Ryabov. “Unfortunately, yesterday has come today.”
And the sick keep coming.
Upon arriving home, Ryabov watches Russia’s largest city and the epicenter of the country’s outbreak act as if there is nothing to fear, with bars, restaurants and theaters open as usual.
“You see people driving without masks, people having fun – both old and young – and it’s upsetting because you’re working for them. Unfortunately they don’t understand,” he says.
“In those cases I want to scream,” says the 54-year-old, who lost five colleagues to the virus before the vaccine was available.
While the pandemic is easing in many Western countries, Russia’s outbreak is worse than ever, with officials saying the virus’ latest surge has spread at its most rapid yet among a population that is only 35-percent full. Well vaccinated.
As Ryabov spoke to AFP at the Sklifosovsky Research Institute of Emergency Medicine Hospital on Wednesday morning, Russia set its sixth record for coronavirus deaths in 24 hours in seven days.
By noon, President Vladimir Putin had ordered a nationwide week-long paid holiday starting October 30 to curb infections, calling on Russians to show “responsibility” and get one of the country’s many jabs. which have been available for free for months.
But with the rising caseload no real pandemic restrictions, and with more than a week left until discharge – a measure criticized by experts as ineffective – coronavirus patients will continue to pack Moscow’s hospitals.
Doctors at the Sklifosovsky Research Institute of Emergency Medicine said they were strong, but begged two-thirds of Russians who have not yet been vaccinated.
“We already need vaccinations to defeat this disease,” said Alexander Shkotko, head of the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU). “We need social responsibility.”
His ward is overshadowed by portraits of the untreated 20th-century Shanghai Russian priest Saint John and San Francisco, also known as Saint John the Wonderworker.
Some patients say they have experienced miracles.
“I know I wouldn’t be here if they didn’t save me,” architect Olga Ryzhko, 51, told AFP from her hospital bed.
She said she was not “Covid dissatisfied” and had planned to get vaccinated, but kept postponing it for now.
Not everyone is that lucky.
In addition to the doctors, Ryzko said a woman who had shared her ICU room over the past month kept her with positivity and encouragement to move forward in the fight against the disease.
But the woman could not save herself. He succumbed to the disease on Monday.
“It’s been really terrifying,” Ryzhko says.
Anatoly Polyakov, a retired police officer who spent two weeks in the ICU and said he was days away from leaving the hospital, also had not received the vaccine.
He explained that he and his wife were waiting for a “strongman” to arrive.
“We waited and waited, and that’s what we got,” the 76-year-old said.
“After all that I’ve lived, I really regret it,” he said. “When I go out I’ll ask everyone to get vaccinated.”
His doctors don’t have much hope that the tide may turn in the near future.
“The first two waves we thought about ‘just a little more and that’s it, we’ll get back to normal life’,” Shkotko said.
“Now we don’t even think about it. It’s a whole new normal.”
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)