Belokamenka has the fastest-growing coronavirus outbreak in northern Russia

By Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer - April 16, 2020

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

Belokamenka (the name means “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.

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

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

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.

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.

Russian federal authorities on April 15 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.