Novatek construction site faces fastest growing coronavirus outbreak in northern Russia

A tented field hospital flown in from Moscow is erected near Belokamenka. (gov-murman.ru)
Work continues at Novatek’s construction site north of Murmansk where thousands of fly-in, fly-out employees share cramped space in barracks. More than 200 have tested positive to the coronavirus so far.

Belokamenka (the White Stone) is where Russia’s largest private owned natural gas company, the Novatek, is building its Kola Yard supply base aimed to support the upcoming Arctic LNG-2 project in the Ob Bay in Siberia.

Thousands of workers are living in barracks at the remote construction site north of Murmansk, currently facing the most severe coronavirus outbreak north of the Arctic Circle.

Regional authorities in Murmansk confirmed 137 new coronavirus infections by the evening of April 14th, more than a doubling from April 13th when 131 cases in total were registered on the Kola Peninsula.

The official numbers of patients are now 268. More interesting, 206 of those are in the Kola District where Belokamenka is located. Also, the increase in Kola district was up from 81 on April 13th to 206 on April 14th, meaning the vast majority of new cases are linked to the Belokamenka construction site.

Belokamenka is located on the west side of the Kola Bay with the Russian Northern Fleet’s Headquarters in Severomorsk to the north and the navy yard No. 82 in Roslyakova across the bay. The Northern Fleet’s airport can be seen in the horizon. (The Independent Barents Observer / Google Earth)

Novatek has so far not published any information about the outbreak and its possible impacts on the construction at Kola Yard.

The Operational Headquarters combating the coronavirus in the Murmansk region can further tell that 253 of the people infected with CoViD-19 are hospitalized.

So far, one person has died from the virus, the Vkontakte page monitoring the coronavirus outbreak in Murmansk region informs.

There are about 4,600 workers currently on the site in Belokamenka. The vast majority are fly-in, fly-out employees of which many are foreigners from China, Turkey and Central Asian Republics.

Some place between 8,000 and 11,000 workers live in the barracks (blue) at the construction site in Belokamenka which is about an hour drive from Murmansk. (The Independent Barents Observer / Google Earth)

On Sunday, two huge cargo planes from Russia’s Ministry of Emergency situations landed in Murmansk loaded with a field hospital that in record speed has been erected near the village of Mezhurechye in Lavna, not far from Belokamenka.

With the hospital follows 130 specialists, including medical doctors. The tent-style field hospital has 10 mechanical ventilators, X-rays machine and other necessary equipment.

The first beds for treating patients were ready on Tuesday.

Governor of the Murmansk Region, Andrey Chibis, underlines that the field hospital can receive patients from other districts as well, not only Kola where Belokamenka is located.

Murmansk governor Andrey Chibis (left with the mask) was shown the field hospital by the staff of Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations. (gov-murman.ru)

Federal authorities on April 15th confirmed 3,388 new coronavirus infections, bringing Russia’s official number of cases to 24,490 marking the latest one-day record in new cases.

About half of the infected people are in Moscow.

Related stories from around the North:

Arctic: Roundup of COVID-19 responses around the Arctic, Eye on the Arctic

Canada: Canadian government providing nearly $130M to help Arctic territories during pandemic, CBC News

Finland: Visits to commercial establishments down sharply in Finnish Lapland, Google data, Yle News

Greenland: COVID-19: Arctic science expedition postpones flight campaign after trainee tests positive for virus, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Norwegian Arctic wilderness tourism hit particularly hard by coronavirus, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Moscow disinforms about coronavirus, says press freedom organization, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Why are Sweden’s politicians taking a different tack for coronavirus?, Radio Sweden

United States: Alaska’s largest rural airline RavnAir could be forced to shut down for good, court docs say, Alaska Public Media

Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer

Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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