Some students and lecturers have fears of the spread of coronavirus infection because there are citizens of different countries among the University students. Yury Fedotov is Senior Vice-Rector for Medical Care and Director of the Pirogov Clinic of High Medical Technologies of St Petersburg University. He has told us why there is no point in suspecting everyone and how to protect oneself.

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Mr Fedotov, do you think there are real reasons for concern for the University students and staff?

I don’t think you should worry for no reason. Firstly, even if students have travelled outside Russia, they go through customs control where temperature checks are carried out. If there is any doubt, smears are taken from people who have arrived. Secondly, everyone who returns from countries where cases of coronavirus infection (COVID-19) have been documented must comply with 14 days of quarantine.

If they have the signs of acute respiratory diseases, they are automatically referred to the S.P. Botkin Clinical Infectious Disease Hospital. Throughout the entire period of examinations, we have sent about six people there, but not a single case of coronavirus was confirmed.

Since 29 January, additional medical stations have been opened in the University's halls of residence, where everyone can consult with doctors. How many people have already taken this opportunity?

I can name the exact number. During this time, 2,038 students who arrived from countries affected by coronavirus infection (COVID-19) have been examined at the medical stations of St Petersburg University.

Currently, there is no need for additional medical stations. This is because, by the Decision of the Chief State Sanitary Doctor of the Russian Federation, everyone who arrives in St Petersburg from countries where there are confirmed cases of coronavirus infection (COVID-19) must contact the common emergency telephone number 112 and receive further instructions.

Should those who have not left Russia over the last month, but feel that they are getting sick visit a medical station?

Everyone should always consult a doctor even if it is common flu. But after all, by the way, flu is even more dangerous. We just forget that the flu mortality rate is about 3%. If you are sick, it is probably not reasonable at all to use public places or to go to a classroom.

Could you tell us about preventive measures for residents of a metropolitan city?

The first and most important thing is to remember that to be infected a certain concentration of the virus in the space is necessary. Therefore, you should not think that if a sick person sneezes, then everyone will be infected from them immediately.

Now there are a lot of questions about wearing medical masks. Their use in special cases is indeed prescribed by the Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing (Rospotrebnadzor). However, the face mask regimen due to the coronavirus has not yet been announced. Now it is in force in medical institutions, but this is for another reason – an increase in the number of acute respiratory diseases.

In general, preventive measures are simple: you need to wash your hands more often and ventilate rooms; public events should not be held or one should attend them with caution. When the first signs of the disease appear, you need to contact your doctor. Everything is as usual. What is coronavirus? This is the same virus that causes acute respiratory diseases or flu. It is just its new form. People’s concern can be understood, because even we, doctors, from the point of view of epidemiology, cannot explain everything. But it is worth remembering that nowadays the world’s traffic fatalities are 3,000 people every day. At the same time, from 29 December, 2019 to the present day, the total number of people who have died from coronavirus infection is about 8,000, and these are the figures for the total deaths all over the world.

What organisations currently have the right to confirm the absence of coronavirus?

At present, biological material collection points have started to work in outpatient clinics in 18 districts of St Petersburg. Citizens who want to be examined for the presence of COVID-2019 coronavirus can apply there. A list of these clinics is published on the website of the Health Committee of St Petersburg.