Coronavirus Chronicle in Moldova: Discouraging Prospects

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The coronavirus infection rates have accelerated. A formidable delta strain is already in Moldova and threatens to be dominating all over the country in October-November: experts predict an increase in the amount of cases up to 3,000 new cases per day

After several months' increase in the coronavirus incidence, the World Health Organization records stabilization of the spread of the new type of coronavirus at around 4.5 million new cases per week. The number of deaths continues to grow, but the rate of growth is declining. More than 68,000 people died from COVID-19 last week, compared to more than 66,000 registered in the week of August 9-15. Over the entire period of the pandemic, about 220 million cases of infection and more than 4.5 million deaths from the complications of infection have already been recorded. Despite the decrease in the rate of the disease, the epidemiological situation in the world remains extremely tense. According to the latest research data, mutations of the virus that causes COVID-19 occur at least once a week - that is, in fact, two times more often than previously thought. “These results mean that if a patient has been ill with covid for more than a few weeks, the virus will have time to evolve, potentially leading to the emergence of new variants,” explains Professor Laurence Hurst of the Milner Center for Evolution at the University of Bath. The other day, WHO took control and added another variant of the coronavirus, the "Columbian" Mu strain, to the monitoring list as a "variant of interest". The more dangerous group of strains designated as "variants of concern" which includes strains "alpha", "beta", "gamma" and "delta" has not been expanded yet. Against this background, in connection with the start of the academic year, experts pay special attention to ensuring a safe sanitary environment in educational institutions. Thus, WHO and UNICEF are calling for measures such as vaccination of teachers and other education staff against COVID-19, testing of children and employees. Attempts to provide students with a safe environment have sparked an active protest movement in Moldova. In particular, we are referring here to the decision of the Emergency National Commission for Public Health stipulating that teaching, non-teaching and support staff should do a COVID test, express antigen or PCR every 14 days at their own expense until the vaccination coverage of 95% of adults in every educational institution. The Federation of Education and Science Trade Unions harshly criticized this decision, noting that forcing teachers to take tests "with their own money" looks like an abuse and urged the authorities to reconsider the decision. In the meantime, the authorities replied they were not going to reconsider the decision and indicated to those disgruntled that they could be vaccinated for free. The Minister of Health Ala Nemerenco reacted to the dissatisfaction and criticism from the public. "There is much talk in the society about why should one pay out of his or her own pocket. But why should the vaccinated people pay for them, since payment must be provided from the budget? The state cannot cover all these costs. Let's ask other citizens if they agree to pay for these tests," said the head of the Ministry of Health. Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita even stated on TV8 that teachers who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 should look for another job, since the right of teachers to decide whether to be vaccinated or not infringes on the rights of students to study in a protected environment. But a few hours after the broadcast, she wrote on social networks that she "regrets the ill-considered announcement about the teachers refusing to vaccinate." Meanwhile, some teachers have already written letters of resignation. Heads of schools in the capital are concerned about the number of resignation letters written in recent days, and note that the educational process is at risk. "As many as three letters were written yesterday. Some do not want to get vaccinated for religious reasons, and others have a medical exemption. The situation with support staff is even more complicated. They receive 1800-2000 lei. How can we convince them?" school representatives wonder. In the meantime, the incidence in the country is growing. Yesterday, the number of new cases skyrocketed to 787, having increased by almost eight times over the month. Mortality from COVID-19 increased 2.5 times over the month: if about 60 people died in July, then in August this number was more than 150. In total, almost 269 thousand cases were recorded in the country, 6411 people died. Coordinator of the National Vaccination Campaign Ninel Revenco warns that the country is on the verge of a red epidemiological danger code. Factors leading to an increase in the incidence are associated with the vaccination delays and with non-compliance with recommendations such as re-testing of the COVID-19 suspects and those who have been in contact with the infected. Another reason is the banal non-observance of basic sanitary measures, such as maintaining social distance, wearing masks, disinfecting hands and surfaces, and ventilating rooms. Experts' forecasts are disappointing. Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita said that a new wave of infection with the more contagious "delta" strain is expected in the country. She presented a WHO forecast, according to which Moldova will face the strongest wave of 3,000 coronavirus infections per day in October-November.