Gazprom is considering urgent vaccination of shift workers after some of its major gas-producing facilities in Russia suffered a spike in the number of Covid-19 infection cases.

The installations are all situated in the Yamal-Nenets region of West Siberia in northern Russia, the Russian state-controlled gas monopoly's core region of operation.

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An executive from Gazprom’s largest gas producing subsidiary, Gazpromdobycha Yamburg, told its corporate weekly publication Puls Yamburga that two groups of shift workers have been isolated on the Zapolyarnoye field after workers fell ill and tested positive for novel coronavirus.

This is despite all workers in the two groups being held in mandatory 14-day quarantine at Yamal-Nenets locations and testing negative for Covid-19 before being permitted to start shifts, Gazpromdobycha Yamburg deputy director Valentin Kramar said.

Additionally, a major Covid-19 outbreak has been reported among builders of contractor, Gazstroyprom, at another key Gazprom field, Bovanenkovo.

Local media reports quoted unnamed Gazstroyprom employees as saying that workers with confirmed Covid-19 infection must remain at the field, with evacuation only being offered to those in a severe medical state.

Kramar has acknowledged that the subsidiary is incurring “high operating costs” due to the implementation of Covid-19-prevention measures.

Vaccination being considered

With a Russian-made vaccine against Covid-19 becoming officially available to Russian public last week, Gazpromdobycha Yamburg is already working on an option to offer a vaccination option to shift workers, with the latest edition of Puls Yamburga urging workers to scan a QR code to participate in a poll on the matter.

Although authorities have said that vaccination will be voluntary, copies of orders from state-owned companies to their employees asking them to have a vaccination or face office access bans, have already been posted on Russian social networks.

Kramar also revealed that there is extremely low availability of hospital beds at gas-producing installations, with shift workers that have Covid-19 having to be airlifted to hospitals in the regional cities of Novy Urengoy and Nadym.

With Novy Urengoy reporting 35 new Covid-19 cases on 7 December, authorities are fast-tracking construction of a modular hospital that will have 300 beds, to add to already existing capacity. The facility is set to become operational by the end of this month and will deal solely with coronavirus infections.

The number of cases in Novy Urengoy, which has a population of about 110,000 people, was reported at between 10 and 20 at the end of November and beginning of December.