The situation with the virus in Moldova is almost officially let go but the country’s leadership has a simple plan on how to cope with the coronavirus. Will it work?
Alarming statistics and new coronavirus scandal in Moldova
Coronavirus has become a common factor in the planet’s everyday life. The rapidly increasing numbers of infected are no longer surprising. The total number of infected to date has exceeded 28 million people, almost 920 thousand have died. The epidemiological situation remains consistently difficult in Moldova as well. This week, the country has stepped one more limit reaching 40 thousand cases of the disease, more than 10 thousand of being active. 564 people remain in serious condition, 33 are connected to ventilators, and the number of deaths reached 1106 cases.
For six weeks, Moldova is leading (in Europe) for the number of infected people in proportion to the population. Unfortunately, half a thousand or more sick people a day has become a norm because indicators hardly fall below this level. Against this background, it is a bit surprising to recall that at the beginning of the pandemic, the scenario with two thousand patients was considered the most pessimistic. In addition, in the period from August 31 to September 6, the republic became for the first time the European “record holder” for deaths from COVID-19, thus 68 deaths were registered. The situation remains difficult for our neighbors: Romania and Ukraine where the incidence rate is also growing. The latter even had to re-close borders for all foreigners (subsequently tightening the ban extending it as well for those who only transit through the territory of Ukraine).
Nevertheless, the most resonant related to COVID-19 last week’s story was not at all the alarming statistics but the head of the National Agency of Public Health Nicolae Furtuna’ s unethical statements who called the coronavirus deaths “a burden for himself and others.” “I don’t want to sound cynical but around the world, COVID took the lives of those who were a burden to themselves and others. These are people who have suffered within: the last stages of cancer, the later stages of diabetes or cardiovascular pathologies. It happened in Italy, in France, and unfortunately in the Republic of Moldova,” Nicolae Furtune said on the air of one of the Moldovan TV channels. Shortly after this scandalous announcement, he resigned.
In addition, the republic’s already former chief sanitary doctor criticized the idea of paying 16 thousand lei to doctors and officials infected with the virus. More than 2 thousand citizens have already received the payment. This week, at the Ministry of Finance suggestion, the government approved this payment cancellation, citing the fact that the republic’s medical institutions have already been equipped with all the necessary protective equipment. President Igor Dodon criticized the Cabinet of Ministers’ decision and noted that neither he nor the parliament would support it.
Problems and loans
The situation in the republic’s healthcare system remains sad. Due to rapid active cases of infection increase, the authorities have to urgently increase the bed capacity in medical institutions of the republic but they are barely keeping up with the rate of cases increase. For example, all the beds in the intensive care units of the capital’s hospitals are already occupied.
Anyway, the population seems to be less and less concerned about the current epidemiological situation. People openly relaxed, already practically not observing even minimal quarantine measures as wearing masks or the social distance. As noted by the State Secretary of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Sergiu Golovac, “both economic agents and the population relaxed.” Because of this, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Moldova plans to strengthen in the near future control over mask regime and other measures of epidemiological safety observing. Particular attention will be paid to crowded places, primarily to parks and markets.
Despite this, there’s nothing about total quarantine resumption. Everyone understands that the country will not cope with either financially or psychologically. On the other hand, the growing epidemic leads also to a commensurate increase in government spending. It is more and more difficult to take money from the depleted Moldovan treasury, so the authorities continue to actively use international donors’ credit resources. This time, the Council of Europe Development Bank acted as borrower providing our country with a 70 million Euros loan “to ensure an effective response in the fight against the pandemic.” Out of these, 40 million euros will be allocated to the healthcare system and used to purchase medical equipment and supplies, rehabilitate medical units and mobilize additional specialists to provide an emergency response to COVID-19. 30 million euros will be given to micro, small and medium enterprises.
At the same time, uncomfortable questions about the efficiency of spending credit and other funds to fight the pandemic, regularly arise. Recently, even more of them arouse when it became known that the Ministry of Health (for unknown reasons) canceled the announced back in July 2020 purchase of ventilators and more than 100,000 tests for diagnosing COVID-19. The purchase was to be carried out with the money of the World Bank. In addition, in August was canceled the purchase of fans worth over 100 million lei.
The main stake lays on vaccination
In fact, today we have to admit that Moldova has actually abandoned active measures to combat the coronavirus. The only way out that the authorities see is the population being vastly vaccinated. This fact confirmed the president’s statements that the republic will not be able to overcome the pandemic without a vaccine. The head of state stressed that for Moldova “it is important to gain access to the vaccine as soon as it receives the World Health Organization’s certification.”
“We must trust the new vaccine. It must be available and used on a voluntary basis. I trust the Russian vaccine because I know the conditions under which it is being developed, and many in Russia have already been vaccinated. That is why I announced my readiness to test the vaccine on myself. I turned to Russia and I hope that by the end of the year we will receive 100-150 thousand doses of the vaccine which should, first of all be used for those being on the “front line,” Igor Dodon said. The president also added that at the experimental stage he trusts the Russian vaccine more than the American one. In addition, according to him, vaccination will be voluntary.
In terms of vaccines supply the republic’s leadership is counting not only on Russia. Relevant negotiations are underway, for example with China and this issue was discussed in particular at the meeting of Dodon with the Ambassador of the PRC. It is already known that six COVID- 19 vaccines are developed and undergo clinical trials in China. The first nasal spray vaccine was also created there and got approved for trials in humans as well.
Generally, the Moldovan authorities are very closely following the development of vaccines around the world, hoping not to be left on the sidelines when all countries rush to buy them. During a meeting with European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides, Foreign Minister Oleg Tsulea said that “in the context of global efforts to develop an effective COVID-19 vaccine, Moldova expects that it to be available for the country’s population as well”. In total, according to the World Health Organization, more than 200 coronavirus vaccines are currently being developed in the world out of which 30 are already being tested in humans.
However, if the Moldovan leadership’s only calculation is to get the vaccine as soon as possible this is not very good. As the WHO noted, the results of the third phase of COVID-19 vaccines clinical trials will be known in early 2021 while mass vaccinations should not be expected until at least the middle of next year. It remains a big question: will the exhausted health care system of the republic hold on for more than six months in an unequal fight against coronavirus. Not to mention the fact that even when the WHO approves the vaccine is ready, it is not necessarily that Moldova will be able to get enough doses for itself in the first line. In this regard, it is very indicative the example with Remdesivir (the only WHO-recommended remedy for the COVID-19 treatment) when the United States has almost entirely snatched it for its needs.
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