Migrant workers doing construction for an IKEA-owned mall are suffering a mass coronavirus outbreak.

11:24 am, April 16, 2020

Four days after hostel residents started reporting respiratory symptoms, 123 COVID-19 cases were detected there

On April 11, a tip about an illegal hostel in the village of Novosergiyevka reached the coronavirus task force for the Leningrad region, which surrounds St. Petersburg. Because the region’s pandemic response is officially monitored by Russia’s Federal Service for Consumer Rights Protection and Human Welfare (Rospotrebnadzor), the Investigative Committee, and the Internal Affairs Ministry’s police force, all three agencies sent representatives to the village, where they found a four-story building.

At the time, 485 people were living in the hostel, all of them itinerant laborers. The St. Petersburg-based outlet Bumaga reported that they were being made to live eight to 10 people to a room, and the space between their bunk beds was less than a meter.

Fourteen residents were found to have acute respiratory symptoms. They were tested for COVID-19, and the entire facility was quarantined. The workers who showed symptoms were asked to self-isolate, and officials mandated that the owner of the hostel enable them to do so. He did not, regional prosecutors later reported. Even the distance between the beds at the hostel remained the same.

The initial coronavirus tests ultimately came back positive, and without any social distancing measures in place, the infection continued to spread. By April 15, 123 cases had been confirmed among the hostel’s residents (no new cases were reported on April 16). The total number of confirmed cases in the Leningrad region is 330.

Officials have opened a criminal case and are inspecting every hostel in the region

The situation in Novosergiyevka has led the regional Investigative Committee to initiate a criminal case under the federal statute that officials are using to prosecute quarantine violations nationwide. The Committee has not yet reported naming any suspects in the case. The Leningrad regional government has already announced that its officials will inspect every hostel and dormitory under their constituency.

A tent hospital manned by doctors and police has been deployed to the area

Most of the cases detected at the hostel so far are mild, and only one patient has been hospitalized. On April 14, a tent hospital was erected outside the hostel in anticipation of further severe cases. “We decided not to send them to the hospitals because there are around 500 people in [the hostel]. We need to localize the problem to one place. Plus, the cases there are mild at this point — most don’t require inpatient care,” a press representative for the Leningrad region told Bumaga.

The tent hospital is currently staffed by doctors from the Vsevolozhsky Inter-District Hospital. Officials have promised that ventilators will be transported to the site if needed. In the meantime, all of the hostel’s residents have been divided into groups: those with confirmed coronavirus infections, those who have not been diagnosed but do have symptoms, and those who have been in contact with the sick but have not shown symptoms themselves.

Each doctor working at the hostel is assigned to one of those groups and maintains separation from doctors working with any of the others. Residents who have not displayed symptoms are now living in temporary structures that house up to 10 beds each. The hostel and its surrounding area have been disinfected, and a police guard has been stationed outside the building.

The illegal hostel’s residents were working on a mall construction project that has now been suspended

According to the St. Petersburg-based outlet 47News, the hostel was subleased by the company Esta Construction and now houses itinerant workers employed by the firm. The workers are reportedly contracted to complete construction projects at the MEGA Dybenko mall.

The MEGA mall chain belongs to IKEA. IKEA confirmed that Esta Construction is one of its contractors for the St. Petersburg-area mall. Company representatives added that IKEA learned of the coronavirus cases in Novosergiyevka as early as April 11. They responded by suspending construction at the mall, sending all of its workers into quarantine, and disinfecting the entire mall building.

IKEA representatives asserted that the laborers now suffering a COVID-19 outbreak were working on projects in areas that were accessible to mall visitors and staff, preventing any contacts between permanent mall employees and the construction team. Esta Construction has not yet commented on the outbreak among its workers.

© Meduza 2020

One comment

  1. I bet there are hundreds of cases like this in Russia. They will be screaming for the supplies Putler gave away in his PR stunts and photo ops in a tele tubby banana clown suit.

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