Almost 2,000 workers have contracted COVID-19 at this Russian Arctic construction site

Workers at Belokamenka. (Photo:
A big cruise vessel has anchored up along the banks of the Kola Bay as the number of infected workers in Novatek’s Belokamenka project continues to grow.

The construction site operated by natural gas company Novatek continues to be the hotbed of COVID-19 cases in the Russian north.

The official number of cases as of the 5th of May total 1.801, regional authorities inform.

That is an increase of more than 120 over the last 24 hours, and up 800 in less than a week. On the 30th April the number of cases amounted to 1,006.

There are about 11,000 people engaged in the construction of the yard that ultimately will build platforms for Novatek’s Arctic LNG projects. Almost 20 percent of them are now infected with the virus.

The construction site is located only few kilometers away from downtown Murmansk, as well as Northern Fleet headquarter city Severomorsk.

The Belokamenka yard in summer 2019. The plant will construct Novatek’s floating production platforms for Arctic LNG projects. (Photo:
Princess Anastasia

In an attempt to help relieve the situation, the project developers have hired cruise vessel “Princess Anastasia”.

On the 3rd May, the 175 meter long ship sailed into the Kola Bay. The “Princess Anastasia” normally transports passengers across the Baltic Sea from St.Petersburg and can take on 2,500 people. It has 834 cabins and can under normal conditions offer a wide range of passenger services, including a number of bars and restaurants, beauty salons and a medical center, ship owner MOBY SPL Line informs.

It is believed that the ship will house healthy workers that have tested negative on the virus.

The “Princess Anastasia.” (Photo: MOBY SPB Line)

A key contractor in the Belokamenka yard is Velesstroy, a company that works closely with Novatek in several major oil and gas projects.

The company has almost 3,800 workers on site, of whom 85 are undergoing hospital treatment. Only 53 of the workers are over 60 years of age, the company informed on the 30th April.

From now on, nobody is allowed to leave the site unless they have tested negative three times, the first conducted no earlier than 29th April.

“The situation is under control,” the company underlines.

More infection

Beyond Belokamenka, the number of infected in the Murmansk region remains low. But also here is a negative development with an increasing number of cases.

In the city of Murmansk, there were by 5th May a total of 41 officially registered cases. In the towns of Kirovsk and Apatity, the numbers were respectively 52 and 86, while the Pechenga area near the border to Norway and Finland has 36 cases.

Related stories from around the North:

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

Canada: Arctic Canada: top doctor apologizes for Nunavut’s false positive COVID-19 case, CBC News

Finland: First Covid-19 death reported in southwestern Finnish Lapland, 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: Risking death for Arctic gas? Northern Russia construction site becomes COVID-19 hotbed, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: WHO says Sweden’s coronavirus strategy could be ‘a future model’ post lockdowns, Radio Sweden

United States: COVID-19 pandemic raises hard questions about health disparities, says Int’l Inuit org, Eye on the Arctic

Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

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

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