Crimea: pandemic against tourist season
The 2020 tourist season in the occupied Crimea ends amid the growing outbreak of coronavirus. Anti-records for new cases of COVID-19 have been regularly recorded on the peninsula since the beginning of September. For example, on September 4, 101 cases of coronavirus infection were detected in the Crimea over the day. But the occupation authorities did not limit the tourist season or introduce other quarantine measures.
“I read about 101 people who fell ill with COVID-19 in the Crimea. There are already 101 people over the day. Well, our “respected” Aksyonov warns us all on his page: Limit the contacts as much as possible, do not visit public spaces unless urgently needed… And right there on his page, there are advertisements for various festivals and shows that he allowed to be held in the Crimea and visits with pleasure himself. He warns and advertises at the same time”, – Oleksandr Yuryev from the Crimea writes on Facebook.
Overcrowded beaches and parks, concerts and festivals without social distancing, as well as inflated prices for housing and other services for tourists have become an integral part of the 2020 summer season in the occupied Crimea.
“The tourist season is now in full swing. August was the most visited month in the Crimea, perhaps, over the past seven years. Tourists from Russia came to us in droves. And now we cannot complain: the demand for housing remains very high, so local residents are trying to earn as much as possible. We expect that the same pace and influx will be maintained until the end of September”, – realtor from Yevpatoria Oleksandr tells OstroV.
According to the so-called Minister of Resorts and Tourism of the Crimea Vadim Volchenko, a 15% increase in the number of tourists was recorded in August 2020 compared to the same period last year. In this regard, the occupation authorities are going to extend the tourist season to 7-8 months a year.
Self-proclaimed head of the Crimea Sergey Aksyonov says that the peninsula is breaking records in tourist attendance this year. He believes that such a number of people was only under the Soviet Union, but immediately recognizes problems with the cost of recreation.
“Today we are breaking records in tourist visits. Few people remember this season. It is clear that this is a challenge to our system, this is a challenge to our accommodation facilities. Unfortunately, there were quite a number of complaints about the cost of accommodation and meals. There were cases of overpricing”, – he said.
More patients, fewer rules
According to information from the occupation authorities, as of September 15, 3341 COVID-19 patients were recorded in the Crimea, 675 in Sevastopol. Several anti-records in the number of cases were recorded in August and September, but this did not become a reason for strengthening quarantine measures. Instead, the so-called local “authorities” have begun to repurpose Crimean hospitals as hospitals for patients with coronavirus. For example, the reception of patients, pregnant women and women in labor in Simferopol Clinical Maternity Hospital No.2 has been officially terminated since August 7. Only patients with coronavirus or pneumonia are sent there.
Despite new anti-records, the Crimean Human Rights Group believes that the official statistics on the spread of coronavirus in the Crimea is deliberately underestimated.
“Official statistics is not just numbers, but also the responsibility of the authorities, which is why they underestimate it. Such underestimation is often associated with political goals. For example, the statistics was reduced under the vote on amendments to the Russian Constitution, as well as before the start of the holiday season. The main responsibility lies with the Russian Federation, we are talking about the protection of civilian population during the war, Russia violates this article of international law and does not take measures to protect the civilian population. This should be discussed at the UN General Assembly, the resolution will be considered at the General Assembly in the fall”, – head of the Crimean Human Rights Group Olha Skrypnyk considers.
The shortage of medical personnel in the occupied peninsula is also no secret. The accounts of the so-called “Ministry of Health of the Republic of the Crimea” in social networks regularly post messages that doctors of any specialty and nurses are required.
“Doctors (of any specialty) and anesthetists are urgently needed to work in the hospital for patients with coronavirus infection in Simferopol”, – they write there.
“There are really not enough medical personnel. The fact is that many specialists left for the mainland of the Russian Federation. More precisely during the peak of COVID-19, they were lured away. This especially applies to highly specialized doctors. Someone was offered higher salaries and better working conditions, others were simply transferred “by order”, since the situation with COVID-19 in other regions is allegedly more complicated. As a result, we were actually left alone with the pandemic”, – one of the Crimean doctors (Simferopol) told OstroV off the record.
Despite the constant increase in cases of coronavirus, the local occupation authorities do not introduce any additional anti-epidemiological measures. Moreover, they urge not to raise panic about a possible second wave of the pandemic in the region.
“I ask you not to react to rumors: that the second wave will begin now, that schools and businesses will be closed in September – there will be no closings now. All measures are being taken in such a way as to prevent neither closures of enterprises, nor restrictions in terms of education”, – Sergey Aksyonov said.
At the same time, chairman of the Association of Small Hotels of the Crimea Natalia Stambulnikova says that tourists continue to book vacation spots on the peninsula in September despite rumors of the “second wave” of COVID-19.
According to her, many tourists want to come to the Crimea hoping to “sit out” a possible surge in the incidence of coronavirus here. They come from those regions where there were stricter restrictions in the spring.
Stambulnikova notes that almost all accommodation facilities were booked for the beginning of September, and there is already an active booking for the second half of the month.
Apparently, the local “authorities” have canceled mandatory observation and self-isolation for visitors from other regions of the Russian Federation in order to create more comfortable conditions for tourists who want to wait out the coronavirus by the sea. All they have to do is inform the hotline of their actual address of residence. In turn, foreigners and stateless persons are required to pass a PCR test for coronavirus upon arrival in the Crimea. According to OstroV’s information from local doctors, no one requires a mandatory test, and many neglect this rule.
“You can get a coronavirus test only in specialized laboratories, but we have few of them. Long queues line up there in the morning. But there is no single electronic database of those who entered and passed or did not pass the test. Therefore, it remains at the discretion of the people themselves. Many neglect it and there is no responsibility for this. I personally know several such cases. You can look at this from the other side – our authorities are not interested in identifying a large number of people infected with coronavirus. The main thing now is to hold the tourist season, and bad statistics can break these plans”, – a doctor from Simferopol told our news agency.
However, not all the Crimeans welcome total permissiveness on the peninsula amid the pandemic and the growth in COVID-19 patients. There are many outraged comments on social networks criticizing the actions of the authorities in the fight against coronavirus.
“I understand that each person is responsible for his/her own health, but if you (addressing Sergey Aksyonov, – ed.) put everything down everywhere in stores, in parks and everywhere in the city and along the South Coast of the Crimea, then people will not be able to save themselves or their children. You and only you are to blame for the fact that we have so many infected people in the Crimea every day. You allowed everyone to do whatever they want. The season is important to you, not people’s health. This is my opinion. Let them write to me later that if you are afraid, sit at home. I expressed to you not only my opinion, but also the opinion of the majority of people. People say so – the reason is in you. You left things to luck. Your control is zero“, – Liuba Minkina writes.
“Concerts, festivals, movies and discos work as usual. As if there was no coronavirus. There was a significant increase in posters for certain events in Sevastopol in August. It seems that they were forbidden to hold concerts in Moscow and St. Petersburg, so they came to us to earn money. All places are sold chock-full, no social distance, masks and antiseptics. It is especially “hot” in nightclubs. Not only did many establishments raise prices, there was no room at all in August. Tourists from mainland Russia occupied all the establishments, and they did not care about quarantine or security. The main thing for them is to have fun and go home. And we have to rake this all out then”, – a resident of Sevastopol Oleksandr told our news agency.
By the way, most of the concerts are held in closed areas, where 100% of places are sold.
“Some fans and concertgoers specially go to Crimea to see their favorite artist. They do not give concerts in Moscow”, – Oleksandr notes.
In addition to concerts, August and September were marked by large festivals in the occupied Crimea. The so-called international jazz festival Koktebel Jazz Party-2020, which was founded by Russian propagandist Dmitriy Kiselev, was the most striking one. Rumors about its cancellation or postponement went to the last, but the festival nevertheless took place in the village of Koktebel (Feodosia) on August 21. Of course, there was no question of any safety measures. Judging by photos from open sources, the festival was held as usual.
Opening of the Koktebel Jazz Party-2020 festival. Self-proclaimed head of the Crimea Sergey Aksyonov and Russian propagandists Dmitriy Kiselev and Olga Skabeyeva.
The Navy Day was celebrated on a similar scale in Sevastopol at the end of July: thousands of people, no social distance, no means of protection or other restrictions.
Sevastopol, the Navy Day
The Crimea hosted an equally large festival Tavrida ART and a military-historical festival in Sevastopol at the beginning of September.
Sports have not been forgotten either. So-called head of the Crimea Sergey Aksyonov has authorized the holding of interregional, all-Russian and international sports events on the peninsula since August 26. In this regard, a festival for people with disabilities Para Crimea has already been held in Evpatoria. About 400 athletes from different regions of the Russian Federation came to compete in powerlifting, darts, ping-pong and swimming.
All this is happening against the backdrop of statements from the occupation authorities that the active fight against coronavirus continues.
“No one observes safety measures in the Crimea. Even the sellers in stores do not wear masks, there are crowds of people in the premises, on the streets, there is no social distance. People react to the remarks extremely inadequately. Look at the photos of officials on social networks, they do not use masks and gloves at the events, and this is an example for people. They are already writing on the mainland that people are bringing diseases from the Crimea”, – the Crimean forums say.
Prices are breaking records
In addition to the worsening epidemiological situation, there is a sharp rise in prices in the Crimea. First of all, it concerns accommodation for vacationers. The locals decided to turn the unprecedented flow of tourists to the maximum benefit. Even Sergey Aksyonov speaks about “cases of overpricing”.
“First of all, this concerns housing prices. Somewhere they increased by 50%, somewhere – 2-3 times. This is despite the fact that many Russian tourists went to the Crimea with the hope of some discount and promotion in connection with the coronavirus. They thought that they were going to “save” their Russians from a disastrous season, but fell into a trap. The locals decided to earn money in full. Many visitors did not like this, since the same Turkey or Egypt are reducing prices, luring the tourists this way, and the Crimea uses the situation for enrichment”, – one of the local realtors told OstroV.
Housing prices began to rise in July, when local “authorities” fully launched the tourist season. Local residents realized in August that the peninsula was in unprecedented demand among Russian tourists, so they decided to raise the cost of housing at the end of the season as much as possible.
“Specify the price for August”, – this phrase has become an integral part of the announcements of real estate lease in the Crimea this season.
“They prayed to rent an apartment last year for $45 per day, made discounts, some promotions. In August this year, such housing cost almost twice as much. Despite the fact that there are old prices in the announcement, everyone asked for more in August, as they saw the influx. In this regard, the hotels were no longer lucky – they have fixed prices. And private individuals constantly raised prices”, – local realtor Natalia told us.
Prices also increased for seasonal fruits and vegetables, tourist services, taxis. According to local residents, many restaurants and nightclubs also raised prices in August.
“Prices for many products just skyrocketed in August. This is especially true for resort areas. I live in Yalta and feel it well. If good pink tomatoes cost $1.6 at the end of July, now their price is $2.3. Peaches cost $1.2-1.6, now – $2.1-2.6. The same is with many vegetables and fruits. Markets and small shops raised prices as soon as they felt the influx of tourists. The local authorities do not react to this in any way. The main thing for them is the successful seasonand more money. They do not think about those who do not earn money from tourists”, – resident of Yalta Mykhaylo says.
Against the backdrop of coronavirus pandemic, the tourist season in the occupied Crimea showed that the local “authorities” are ready to do anything to keep the region attractive to Russians. And no anti-records for the number of cases of COVID-19 became an obstacle on the way to earnings. In fact, the Crimea has become comfortable enough for residents of other regions of the Russian Federation to sit out the coronavirus… Or to pick it up there…
Vladyslav Bulatchik, OstroV