Coronavirus Chronicles in Moldova: How Does the Country Cope with Epidemic

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Marina DRAGALIN According to expert forecasts, the number of COVID-19 infected in Moldova continues to grow. Anyway, the epidemic is only gaining momentum and has not yet come into full force. The health system, unprepared for stress is accumulating fatigue despite rational and adequate measures taken and along with, its tensile strength is quite close. According to official numbers, the quantity of new coronavirus infection contaminated people in Moldova is constantly growing. It is obvious, as we wrote earlier, every day the epidemic like a spinning spiral is only gaining momentum. The virus penetrated deeply into Moldovan society and in the near future we should expect another jump in new cases. According to mathematical models, two deaths give Moldova at least 1600 real infected and the available 177 official cases, thus, show up to about 2.5 thousand infected. Having such numbers, the measures taken by the state seem quite justified. Except, however, the absurd and incomprehensible decision to withdraw the equipment with heavy machine guns on the streets of Chisinau. Among adequate steps, it should be noted access to public places restriction such as parks, squares, venues and other places where people gather. According to Prime Minister Ion Chicu, this is a difficult but necessary decision to stop the virus spread. Additionally, authorities finally decided to test all returning migrant workers for coronavirus. To speak frankly, it was worth doing this a month ago when the wave of reverse migration was only approaching Moldova, and not after about 15 thousand citizens had already returned to the country. At the same time, caution will not be superfluous, given the measures taken to return citizens who are stuck in connection with world quarantine abroad. To put that into context, charter flights and motor vehicles from Russia, France, Italy, the Czech Republic, Turkey, and Great Britain arrive to the country. Border police, doctors and other people who contact with potential infection carriers are also tested for the virus. A reasonable question as to what kind of tests are to be used appears on the way –since only about 10 thousand internals were recruited. The whole undertaking will acquire an exclusively advertising character if only express tests of dubious quality donated by China are used. Their low reliability, does not simply give any true result without laboratory confirmation. The Czech Republic, Ukraine, and a number of other countries, including China itself, have already noted this fact. The one probably pleasant news for the population is free public transport and the next week off announcement, as in Russia. This of course is far from strict quarantine that some residents of European countries faced but it is an obvious attempt to minimize the citizens’ movement and their social contacts. Especially when accompanied with the ban to leave the house if no emergency reason. Another pressing issue ahead of the weekend is how religious entities will be acting. Last Sunday, despite the calls from authorities to avoid crowding indoors, 375 churches held a worship service indoors. Ion Chicu promised to apply penalties to quarantine violators and urged compatriots to refrain from going to church. Such a statement by the head of government is connected, among other things, with the fact that this week the coronavirus was detected among eight pilgrims who traveled to neighboring Pochaev Monastery in neighboring Ukraine. Now, all of their companions are under the suspicion of being infected. The negligence and carelessness of Moldovan citizens amid the danger of the coronavirus infection rapid spread is simply amazing. There have been cases when false information in epidemiological maps was provided, and the facts of dangerous contacts and symptoms were hidden. The lack of protective equipment for medical workers aggravates the situation. Labor unions ask to supply doctors and staff of medical facilities with individual and collective protective equipment without delay, as well as provide housing for those who have contacted and involved in the treatment of patients with COVID-19, to ensure their isolation and quarantine. Recall, doctors by law have the right to refuse to perform certain medical procedures if there are no necessary technical and medical capabilities. Therefore, there is a danger that many doctors will quit their jobs during a state of emergency due to a lack of protective equipment. The authorities are trying to minimize these risks - a decision was made to allocate more than 36 million lei from the reserve fund to purchase protective equipment. Some assistance in the fight against the epidemic in Moldova is provided by international partners. In particular, material and technical assistance has already been received from Russia and China, a second supply of medicines and equipment from China is expected. Protective equipment and disinfectant from Switzerland will arrive soon as well. The International Monetary Fund is ready to provide more than $ 100 million at the request of the Moldovan authorities, and today it became known that such a request from Chisinau has been sent (in the amount of 117 million). The authorities optimized the expenses of the parliament and the presidency, which made it possible to allocate about 14 million lei to fight the epidemic; similar actions are expected in relation to other state bodies. Unfortunately, country's leadership adopts very  controversial decisions along with adequate measures. In particular, we are talking about dismissal of the Director of the Republican Hospital Anatol Chubotaru at the height of the epidemic and the order (already canceled) of the Audiovisual Council on the correct coverage of the situation with coronavirus, which was condemned even by international partners of Moldova. Let's not forget that migrants who have returned to their home country are still hanging over Moldova like a sword of Damocles. International organizations working with Moldova  have already noted the depth of the problem. Thus, the International Organization for Migration stated it had launched discussions with donors on programs aimed at early restoration of the business environment, as well as adaptation of migrants returned from abroad. It sounds much more optimistic than Prime Minister Chicu’s proposal to employ them in a low-paid agricultural sector. As we assess the current situation in the country, it should be noted that the political class is in general disoriented and not ready to manage real crises, although some of the measures taken are quite reasonable. Epidemiological data suggest that the highest rate of illness is yet to come. Lack of personnel and the inability to ensure the proper level of protection make deficient medical staff exposed to infection and leave the ranks. Not ready to face such stressful challenges, the health system is running out of steam, and its breaking point is close. The Moldovan state cannot cope on its own. The authorities should resolve to appeal to international partners with a request to provide not only material and technical assistance, but also human resources.