An employee of the Olimpiada Gold Mine in the Siberian region of Krasnoyarsk Krai died of the coronavirus on May 21. This is the first death from the disease among the mine’s workers, hundreds of whom became infected with COVID-19 over the course of the last few weeks. The gold mine’s coronavirus patients make up about a third of the cases in the Krasnoyarsk Krai — a region that is home to 2.8 million people.
The Olimpiada Gold Mine is located approximately 400 kilometers (about 250 miles) north of the regional capital, Krasnoyarsk. One of the largest gold mines in Russia, Olimpiada is operated by the company “Polyus,” which belongs to the family of billionaire businessman and politician Suleiman Kerimov. All total, 3,300 people work in the gold mine itself, and the nearby Yeruda workers’ settlement is designed to accommodate 5,500 people at a time.
The first cases of COVID-19 were identified at the gold mine on May 6, when three of its workers were diagnosed with the disease. After that the number of infections grew quickly: 89 people were diagnosed on May 9, followed by 303 people on May 13, and 866 people on May 18. On May 21, the company announced that 1,191 of its workers had tested positive for COVID-19.
Polyus emphasized that the identification of such a large number of cases is due to the fact that the company is in the process of conducting continuous testing among all 6,000 of its employees, at its own expense. Moreover, the vast majority of the cases that have been detected are among patients who are asymptomatic.
Due to the outbreak at the Olimpiada Gold Mine, Krasnoyarsk Krai has jumped to fourth place in Russia for the growth of new COVID-19 cases — after Moscow, the Moscow region, and St. Petersburg. As of May 20, the region’s official statistics included a total of 504 new cases, 440 of which were among Olimpiada workers.
Forces from the Defense Ministry were deployed to help combat the COVID-19 outbreak at the gold mine. Within a few days, military personnel had set up a multi-purpose, 100-person hospital in Yeruda, as well as a field camp for medical observation with 1,000 beds. They also disinfected dozens of objects in an area totaling more than 50,000 square meters. All total, more than 400 military personnel and more than 100 pieces of special-purpose equipment were deployed to carry out this work.
On May 12 Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Alexander Uss postponed the easing of the region’s self-isolation regime, due to the COVID-19 outbreak at the Olimpiada Gold Mine. Krasnoyarsk Krai had originally planned to begin the first stage of easing quarantine restrictions in mid-May, but the corresponding decree was not signed until May 20. Beginning on May 25, hairdressers and beauty salons will be allowed to resume work. However, the decree does not include permission for residents to take walks freely, despite recommendations from Russia’s public health watchdog, Rospotrebnadzor, that this be included in the first stage of easing quarantine restrictions.