House call coronavirus testing in Russia

What do the Russians get up to when they’re not interfering in our elections? Thus far, stopping coronavirus pretty much dead in its tracks (see “Why does Russia, population 146 million, have fewer coronavirus cases than Luxembourg?” (CNN), in which border patrol, public health, and CDC-type workers simply do the job for which they are paid).

What’s it like on the ground in Moscow? My sources say that house calls are available for anyone who wishes to be tested. Call a phone number and a technician shows up with a small suitcase of equipment. A sample is collected. The lab result is delivered the next day. In the meantime, the person who called for the test is told to stay at home.

[Update from reader comment: the merely paranoid or curious cannot get a test. Tests are reserved for those with some risk factor, e.g., travel.]

How about here in Massachusetts? Only hospital inpatients and health care providers are tested. The testing presumably happens at some location where everyone who is likely to have coronavirus has assembled (i.e., if you didn’t have COVID-19 before you showed up for the test, you will have it a little later!).

[If Trump gets the blame for everything that has gone wrong in the U.S. with our state public health departments, state governor actions/inactions, CDC work, FDA failures to approve, lax border controls, etc., does that mean we have to credit Vladimir Putin for the diligent work of all of the low- and mid-level Russian government and health care workers? If so, does that make Putin a true savior of humanity?]

Update 3/28: “There have been 1,264 cases of coronavirus infections reported in Russia so far and four deaths.” (Moscow Times) I.e., if we believe that the testing capability is comparable (which it almost surely isn’t, since it isn’t comparable from U.S. state to U.S. state), all of Russia (144 million people) is about as badly hit as Tennessee (7 million). The article describes a variety of “flatten the curve” measures, such as a one-week paid holiday. So, ultimately, the Russian approaching to controlling the outbreak may end up not being that different from any other country’s.


  • health care spending as a percentage of GDP (U.S. spends more than 3X Russia)
  • March 31, 2020 update: “Russian plane headed for U.S. with coronavirus medical equipment” (Reuters) A U.S. official in Washington confirmed the shipment was a direct result of the phone conversation between Trump and Putin on Monday. The official said it carried 60 tons of ventilators, masks, respirators and other items. … Russia has also used its military to send planeloads of aid to Italy to combat the spread of coronavirus, exposing the European Union’s failure to provide swift help to a member in crisis and handing Putin a publicity coup at home and abroad.

12 thoughts on “House call coronavirus testing in Russia

  1. >> if you didn’t have COVID-19 before you showed up for the test, you will have it a little later
    I am wondering why our medical luminaries did not think this through. A COVID test can be cheap, instantaneous, cost-free, and–always available.
    When a patient shows up, tell them that they are positive and send them home to self-isolate. Done.
    An alternative looks like this:
    An important note: the is the ER entrance, which means the hospital no longer has any ER function.

  2. Maybe Russia can be relatively effective in administering tests, but they are taking way less extreme isolation measures than other countries. Overtime we’ll see if actual deaths will be higher than expected, and then it will be clear if virus was underreported.

    • > they are taking way less extreme isolation measures

      You mean they’re not determined to destroy their economy? How does one invest in Russia?!

  3. >> house calls are available for anyone who wishes to be tested

    As a Moscovite, I can’t get tested on a whim, they only make tests if you’ve been to a suspicious country recently (or in contact with someone who have), have covid-19 symptoms or pneumonia. The situation seems to be much better than in Europe, though. People mostly don’t trust a word from the mayor’s office, but if it were really bad, we’d know by now from the fb posts of patients, MDs and morticians.
    For some reason the local government got scared shitless very early. Every person returning from Italy etc. gets a call from Consumer contol (serving also as our CDC), a visit from ER, and forced to keep themselves quarantined; it started around the third official case. They even implemented a 1937-style instant court sessions, where you are escorted by the police and Consumer control officials to a courtroom for a trial, (mostly) sentencing you to be quarantined or put in a hospital.
    Government offices and schools were closed early as well. The free public transport cards have been suspended, so that schoolchildren and the elders move around less. Borders are closed for incoming foreigners from bad places.

    I’m not sure it can go on long enough, cause the economy is being hit by the virus and the oils wars at the same time. E.g. dollar appreciated 35% in the last three weeks.

  4. The numbers in Russia are worse than reported but not nearly as bad (yet) as in other countries. Many cases were filed under pneumonia. if someone died, the comorbidity is listed as cause of death, not covid-19.

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