Two Russian regions in West Siberia — Yamal-Nenets and Khanty-Mansiysk — have introduced mandatory coronavirus vaccinations for shift workers who arrive at oil and gas installations from other regions of the country.
According to orders signed by governors of the two regions, the measure came into effect on 11 October and replaces requirements for incoming personnel to produce negative Covid-19 tests upon arrival.
The orders state that until 1 November, the entry will still be possible for those workers who have received a first dose of Russian-made vaccines.
Authorities have passed the responsibility of implementing of these orders on oil and gas producers, demanding they bar non-vaccinated personnel access to their facilities after 1 November, or temporarily dismiss them.
Workers who have had the first dose must confirm they have received a second before 1 December this year, or face similar prohibitions.
State controlled gas monopoly Gazprom had earlier reported that over 80% of its shift workers at Yamal-Nenets fields were vaccinated against Covid-19.
That in turn has led to the reduction in shift duration to between 30 to 40 days from two to three months, introduced last year in response to the pandemic.
Gazprom, together with its oil producing subsidiary Gazprom Neft, are the largest employers of shift workers in the Yamal-Nenets region.
However, at the beginning of this week just 33% of adults living in Yamal-Nenets region have had both, compared with 43% in neighbouring Khanty-Mansiysk which is dominated by oil producers Rosneft, Lukoil and Surgutneftegaz.
New rules for accommodation buildings are expected to affect the availability of workers for oilfield service contractors, due to the prevalence of temporary and seasonal labour.
The requirements extend to other profession and have provoked uproar in Russian social networks as they contradict earlier pronouncements from authorities, including President Vladimir Putin’s statement that the Covid-19 vaccination will remain voluntary in the country.
According to observers in Moscow, besides a wave of misinformation about the supposed side effects of vaccinations, the lack of international acceptance of Russian-made Covid-19 vaccines and the prohibition on imports of alternative vaccines have acted as major hindrance to attempts to increase acceptance rates.
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