Russian gas monopoly Gazprom has airlifted 20 workers from the Bovanenkovo gas field in West Siberia earlier on Friday after placing them in 14-day quarantine yesterday due to suspected contact with a Covid-19 infected individual during transit to the connection point in Yekaterinburg.
Field operator Gazprom dobycha Nadym said the workers arrived for their shift to the remote Bovanenkovo gas field on 17 March.
They all flew in the same airplane, from Moscow on 16 March, with a person who was later confirmed as infected by the coronavirus.
Bad weather on Thursday prevented the company from moving the affected workers a quarantine centre in the city of Noyabrsk. The company then decided to send the whole group to a regional hospital in the town of Nadym, as the number of people with flu symptoms grew to three from two over the last 24 hours.
Gazprom dobycha Nadym executive director Igor Melnikov said workers at Bovanenkovo and on its other Yamal Peninsula assets accepted an offer to extend their shifts to two-and-a-half months instead of one month.
All 20 employees are understood to have arrived at the field before the offer was announced.
Melnikov added that the company will pay 50% of the regular salary to those employees due to travel to the field soon, but who now have to remain at home following the decision.
Gazprom dobycha Nadym said that gas production at the Bovanenkovo field, which accounts for about 25% of Gazprom’s total output, “continues as normal”. However, the operator banned all travel from or to the Bovanenkovo field until the end of March and halted operations of local rail station and airport as a pre-caution.
Other Russian oil and gas producers have so far reported no Covid-19 cases or placed workers in quarantine, although most of them extended shift to one and a half to three months — the maximum allowed by labour regulations.
Despite the growing number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country, authorities have not ordered the halt of domestic air travel or restricted movement of people in and out of major cities like Moscow and St Petersburg.
On Wednesday, President Vladimir Putin has stopped short of announcing massive quarantine measures in the country, instead ordering country-wide holidays to run from 28 March to 5 April, as well as measures to support small-to-medium-sized businesses in the next six months and also halt capital flight from Russia.