Social distancing rule ignored

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Of the daily television reports, the most notable news for the public is the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 on a given day. Particularly, the COVID-19 death toll takes lot of attention. Some people don’t care about other data or analysis. They only worry when they see the ministry’s report every morning, but go out to play, ride a bike and go shopping as though everything is normal. Elders like to sit outside and talk about the morning news in the name of walking out for fresh air. Mongolian National Broadcasting (MNB) showed a video taken by a drone last week. Many people were walking at the National Garden Park. Mothers gathered for a picnic with their children. This is how people are observing the lockdown.

Hospitals are overcrowded and doctors, nurses and caregivers of the National Center for Communicable Disease continue to work in three shifts a day. The workload has increased three to four times. There is also a risk of staff shortage due to the high incidence of infection among medical staff. Nationwide, the health sector employs about 56,000 people, including doctors, nurses, resident doctors, technicians and administrators. But, if the situation continues as worse, there is no answer as to whether there will be enough doctors, nurses and caregivers to serve patients in the future.

In addition, both the State Emergency Commission and Ministry of Health are nonchalant. When journalists ask detailed questions, they just say, “We are studying the matter,” “Ask the State Emergency Commission about this,” or, “This is the responsibility of the Ministry of Health.” The government thinks that if the people follow the strict rules of the lockdown, stay at home, away from streets, squares, shops and other’s houses, the spread of infection would slow down. But people are taking advantage of the lack of clarity of the lockdown rules to move about freely. Due to this, hundreds of people across the country went to hospitals and hundreds more are being monitored and treated at home on the advice of medical institutions.

Many people say, “I’m wearing a mask and washing my hands well. I don’t go to crowded places. How can I get the virus when I am alone outside for a picnic?” There is nothing wrong with that. Since the spread of this infection, the Ministry of Health, government and World Health Organization have been giving such advice. However, you can become infected just by taking off your mask to breathe air. International scientists have previously reported that the coronavirus has been in the air for some time. That is why the spread of COVID-19 is more prevalent.

Many people suffer from non-coronavirus related ailments. Ten days ago (as of April 16), when a disabled person walked on to the State Third Central Hospital on one leg, the Department of Neurology was closed due to COVID-19. Under their guidance, three days later, he was admitted to a health center in Songinokhairkhan District, but the doctor stopped seeing him, claiming that the infection had spread there as well. Other nurses continued to administer the necessary injection, but soon the hospital sent all inpatients home. When a patient asked about the treatment for the missing days and the medication, nurses said, “There's no doctor. The pharmacy isn’t working.”

As a result of the coronavirus, life is getting worse everywhere. It would be better for the government to take measures at vital organizations that seriously violated the public interest.

The average number of confirmed cases per day in Mongolia is 1,000, which is equivalent to 500,000 cases per day in China in terms of proportion to the population. We also know how far our northern neighbor has come and how much damage they have faced. Last year, the country celebrated International Women’s Day nationwide and it caused a quick spread of infection in all parts of the country. A similar incident took place in our country on April 9, the day before the strict lockdown. The government transferred 300,000 MNT to each citizen’s bank account starting a day prior to the lockdown. As a result, people gathered and went to markets to prepare food for the lockdown.

Citizens should look after their own health. The government is making very costly decision. Everyone is fighting against the pandemic as much as they can. But at the same time, there are reports of serious cases on social media.

Doctors of the National Center for Communicable Disease changed PCR results of their relatives and requested Gerege System staff to change about 50,000 test results, according to a social media report over the weekend. In this regard, Gerege Systems LLC reported, “Only the doctors of the National Center for Communicable Disease and other laboratory physicians have the right to enter or change the test results and to change information if the results are entered incorrectly. Gerege Systems LLC is not involved in the process of issuing and changing test results. Only the doctor who performed the test enters the results into the system.”

According to police, a special team is investigating possible misconduct by doctors and medical staff. In this context, investigation into possible changes in test reports are underway.

Late last week, the team detected several possible violations related to the vaccination. For example, a well-known official had allowed relatives to cut the line for the Pfizer vaccine, which was to be given to target groups. The police are also investigating reports that PCR testing equipment supplied to Mongolia with state funding and international organizations may have been sold to private companies. If these reports are true, it is unfortunate that the public’s efforts have been undermined.

It is required to plan for the future and develop a strategy to deal with the pandemic with minimal damage. At a time when the pandemic is spreading so rapidly, many urge the authorities not to waste time and money, such as the presidential election, but to focus the government’s policy on fighting the pandemic. It seems that the hospital and the Ministry of Health were not shocked by the news of 1,340 cases a day (April 18) and the rising death toll.

Enkhnaranjav Tumurbaatar