Covid-19 arrived in the Yamal tundra

It was probably a matter of time, but I thought until today ‘how great that the tundra is still free of infections’. The reindeer herders strategy of avoiding dangerous places had worked pretty well since March. Using flexibly nomadic movements to avoid dangerous places has been a strategy among the Nenets for centuries, which has worked well to mitigate impacts of all kinds of diseases and disasters of any sort. But now apparently some student brought the virus in, from a dormitory. The person travelled on a helicopter that was bringing Nenets students back to their home nomadic camps for the summer holiday. This means that the other almost 20 passengers of that helicopter have also been in contact.

This is rather worrying, because if these other people now also spread the virus in their home camps, this is going to spread further in the tundra. Those who have lived in chums know that it is impossible to keep these rules of distance that we are supposed to observe in towns: masks, distance of 2 m, eating only from your plate, all that stuff is impossible there. In the chum everybody eats from the same plate, drinks from the same vodka glass, exchanges cutlery, cups, etc.
For me this also means I cannot join now brigade 4 of the Yar Sale reindeer herding entreprise as originally planned. There is a complete ban and contact barrier to the entire area now. And violating this is in nobody’s interest, let alone that it’s prosecuted by law. We can only hope that it won’t spread too much. So for the time being I will continue sitting in Se Yakha, the Yamal Peninsula’s northernmost permanent proper village (maybe Tambey is considered a village as well, but if so, only a handful people live there). There is enough interesting stuff to do there too. And the village is covid-19 free. And in the shops they are really strict that everybody has to wear masks. Well done! If everybody in Russia would follow these rules like that…
Today for example I met the daughter of a friend, Andrey Okotetto, who passed away sadly two years ago. She was four years old when I met her last time, in the tundra. And now she is 25, has three children, and works as a kindergarten teacher in the village. It’s noticeable how young the population of the village is. Youngsters around everywhere, and super-young mothers of babies…
If I don’t fly to the tundra without internet tomorrow, I’ll post some more of the village.

Se Yakha, North East Yamal Peninsula. From here operate a lot of the helicopters flying to the tundra now, as two refuelling stations in the West of the Peninsula are closed

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