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COVID-19 in Kyrgyzstan: How lack of PPE turns hospitals into source of infection

A surge in the number of people infected with coronavirus has been observed in Kyrgyzstan since mid-June. COVID-19 is increasingly confirmed in medical workers. Our analysis showed that one of the main causes of the infection is the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers.

At least 5,296 cases of coronavirus were registered in Kyrgyzstan as of June 30, 830 of them — in medical workers. Doctors and nurses account for almost 16 percent of the total number of people infected with coronavirus. An average of 22 cases of COVID-19 in health care workers is registered daily. On June 30, COVID-19 was confirmed in 47 medical workers — the maximum number of cases for a day.

The Head of the Technical Group of the WHO Emerging Diseases Unit, Maria Van Kerkhove, explained that the main factors of infection are the lack of personal protective equipment, long work with the sick people and insufficiently strict disinfection measures. So far, no one can analyze the relationship between coronavirus infection and long work with patients using data. Therefore, we decided to study in detail the data on the number of protective equipment and its distribution.

To calculate the number of PPE, we used data from the state procurement portal and open data of the Ministry of Health on humanitarian aid received.

Protective equipment includes medical masks, gloves, shoe covers, bonnets, shields, glasses and suits. Note, each of these items is considered to be one unit of PPE, both in public procurement and in humanitarian aid data. Therefore, we also calculated it in such a way in our analysis, although physicians need PPE sets, and not one item at a time.

There are more than 2 million PPE in Kyrgyzstan as of today.

At the same time, Bishkek and Osh region have got the most of PPE, and Osh city and Talas region — the least. Recall, Talas has the highest number of the virus cases in medical workers compared to the total number — 27 percent.

«PPE was distributed primarily among areas with the highest number of cases. At the very beginning — among Bishkek and the southern regions. COVID-19 cases have not been registered for a long time in Talas region. Now, most likely, PPE delivered as humanitarian aid will be sent there,» the Ministry of Health said.

We decided to calculate how long the medical equipment available in the country will last the medical workers.

At the beginning of 2020, there were almost 62,000 employees of medical institutions in Kyrgyzstan. On average, a medical worker’s working day lasts 8 hours. This means that every health worker must change at least two sets of protective equipment.

If we distribute all available PPE among all doctors in the country, then they will be enough for two working days.

According to the government, a total of 9,544 medical workers are involved in the fight against coronavirus. All of them work in the centers of the infection around the clock, therefore they will have to change their personal protective equipment at least six times. Even if the protective equipment is distributed only among them, then it will be enough for an average of 5 shifts.

The PPE available in Kyrgyzstan is not enough for medical workers. This is one of the main reasons why they are increasingly getting infected with coronavirus. Lack of protective equipment leads to nosocomial infection with COVID-19. There are already cases of coronavirus infection in hospitals.

If the state’s approach to providing health care workers with protective equipment does not change, then the situation will worsen. As a result, hospitals will become the hotbed of COVID-19 in Kyrgyzstan.

The full version of the material in Russian: Коронавирус в Кыргызстане. Как нехватка СИЗ превращает больницы в источник заразы.

Data Editors: Anastasia Valeeva, Cholpon Uzakbaeva.

Illustrations by Nadezhda Khabichevskaya.

The material was created by fellows of data journalism program of Media-K project Internews in Kyrgyzstan, implemented with the support of USAID in the Kyrgyz Republic in partnership with the World Bank, DFID and IDEM. The program’s mentor is Anastasia Valeeva. The opinions and conclusions in the material do not necessarily reflect the views of Internews and its partners.

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