Coronavirus: Russian woman escapes quarantine by short-circuiting security lock

Conrad Duncan
A man walks past a fence in front of the Botkin hospital in St. Petersburg, Russia: AP

A Russian woman who escaped from a coronavirus quarantine by short-circuiting an electrical security lock on the door to her ward has been sued by health authorities, according to state-owned media.

The woman had returned from China in early February and left the Botkin Hospital for Infectious Diseases in St Petersburg without permission, a statement from the city’s chief sanitary physician, quoted by the TASS news agency, said on Thursday. The Agence France-Presse news agency also reported on the case.

Health authorities have accused her of potentially exposing members of the public to coronavirus by breaking quarantine regulations.

She has resisted attempts by officials to bring her back to the hospital and argued she should be allowed to leave the quarantine because she tested negative for the virus three times, reports from Russia suggest.

“When evening came and the medical staff had let their guard down, I short-circuited the magnetic lock in my containment room and opened the door,” the woman told The Moscow Times, an independent website.

She added: “Our constitution guarantees freedom. I didn’t understand why I had to stay in a hospital cage.”

The woman is thought to be staying in her flat in St Petersburg and refusing to open the door to police.

Coronavirus outbreak: What are the symptoms?

More than 1,300 people have died from coronavirus since the outbreak started in December 2019, with more than 64,000 people infected worldwide.

Russia has reported two cases of the virus so far – both Chinese nationals.

At least 144 Russian nationals have also been evacuated from China and sent to a two-week quarantine in Siberia.

Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for Russia’s foreign ministry, has said the government was taking “all the necessary measures” to prevent the spread of the virus.

“The Russian embassy and the consulate general in China are closely monitoring the situation and staying in touch with Russian citizens that are in China’s districts where the disease has spread,” Ms Zakharova said.

Other countries, such as the UK, have also introduced 14-day quarantines for some passengers returning from China as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the outbreak.

Although the vast majority of confirmed coronavirus cases have been found in mainland China, more than 20 other countries have reported cases as well.

There are currently nine confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared an international public health emergency for the outbreak at the end of January due to the rising number of cases being reported outside of China.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the WHO, warned on Wednesday against complacency in the global response to the virus and said the outbreak “could still go in any direction”.

“The number of newly confirmed cases reported from China has stabilised over the past week, but that must be interpreted with extreme caution,” Mr Tedros said.

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