A Russian woman who escaped her coronavirus quarantine by climbing out of a hospital window has defended her decision, saying conditions in the facility were unsanitary and she was only detained because of a bureaucratic error.
The mother-of-two, from the central city of Samara, posted to Instagram to explain her actions after receiving public criticism.
It comes as the WHO warned that it is “far too early” to predict an end to the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak despite a “stabilisation” in the numbers of newly-confirmed cases in China.
Amid global concern, many countries have quarantined recent arrivals from China, in some cases regardless of whether they have any symptoms.
In Russia, only two cases of COVID-19 have been reported. Nevertheless, the authorities have hospitalized hundreds of people who returned from China as a precaution.
Two Russian women who arrived from the beach vacation island of Hainan — 1,500km from Wuhan — were kept in isolation but later fled, citing uncooperative doctors, poor conditions and fear they would become infected. Russian health authorities haven't commented on their complaints.
One of the women, with a username Guzel Neder, posted a lengthy explanation on Instagram following a public backlash.
She said her son, Leo, came down with a cough and a fever of 37.3 C (99.2 F) four days after the family's return. She called emergency services, who diagnosed the boy as having a viral respiratory infection and who said the mother and the son must go to a hospital for coronavirus tests.
The hospital promised test results within three days, then extended it to five, she said, and meanwhile the boy responded to treatment with medication and an inhaler, she wrote. When she tried to press for results, hospital personnel obstructed her, she said.
Eventually she made direct contact with Russia’s diagnostic centre in Novosibirsk, near the Mongolian border, where officials said that she would have been informed if she or her son had tested positive.
Meanwhile, she had become concerned about lax procedures in the hospital, saying that some medical personnel came to the isolation area without masks or threw their protective clothing on the floor.
“My son was hysterical,” she wrote. “There was no exit for us other than to leave the hospital without authorization, through the window.”
She said nobody else on her flight from Hainan had been quarantined.
“We did not expect, when calling an ambulance, that they would keep us in the dark for five days in an infectious diseases hospital with violations of sanitary and epidemiological standards, where there was a risk of catching an infection.”
The second woman, Alla Ilyina from St Petersburg, said she tested negative for the coronavirus but was told by doctors she had to remain quarantined for two weeks.
She told the Fontanka newspaper that she was confined to an isolation room with no books or soap, no Wi-Fi and a wastebasket that was never emptied.
After figuring out how to break the electronic door lock, she escaped but nobody came to look for her. “If I were sick, they would have swamped me with phone calls,” Fontanka quoted her as saying.
Fontanka also published a video reportedly recorded by other patients quarantined in the same hospital in St Petersburg. The footage shows two young women in what appears to be a patient room showing a handwritten note saying “Let us out of here, please."