200 Construction Workers Infected with COVID-19 at Murmansk Site

An outbreak with more than 200 infected people has emerged at a construction site for energy giant Novatek near the capital of Russia’s Murmansk region, Novaya Gazeta reported.

The workers infected were building a massive new shipyard that Novatek-Murmansk plans to use to create a fleet of floating gas liquefaction plants. The first case on the site was detected on April 6. A week later, 81 people were infected, and that number shot up to 206 the next day. Most of the patients work for construction contractor Velesstroy, sources familiar with the outbreak told local media. The regional coronavirus task force confirmed, “the epicenter is in the company Velesstroy.”

Novatek said on Wednesday that operations at its Murmansk facility continue as usual despite the outbreak.

Between 9 and 11 thousand workers from across Russia, Belarus, and Turkey are working on the Novatek project, Novaya Gazeta wrote. The construction staff themselves said they have not been given gloves or masks; the only protection they have access to is hand sanitizer.

Meanwhile, the workers who continued working in close quarters and are unable to follow social distancing guidelines issued by Russia’s federal public health agency. 

The Murmansk Region governor Andrey Chibis warned this week that he expects a “very serious spike in case numbers” in the region. He said that if the number of infections surrounding Murmansk does rise, his government will introduce digital travel permits region-wide “to minimize individuals’ movements if they have no cause to move.”

According to an order from Monday, the regional authorities are buying electronic tracking bracelets to monitor patients confirmed to have COVID-19.

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