Teaching and learning Russian and English

In-depth guide: Talk about quarantine and the Coronavirus in Russian

In-depth guide: Talk about quarantine and the Coronavirus in Russian

I took useful words and phrases from this meduza.io podcast about COVID-19 in St. Petersburg to help you talk about the coronavirus in Russian.

How to use this article

Glance at the words in this post and then listen to the podcast. Pay attention to how they're used. Don't worry about understanding everything; alternate between relaxing to take in the main meaning and focusing on specific words from this post.

Then come back to the article and use it as a guide to describe the коронакризис (coronacrisis) as it relates to you.

  • Write a paragraph about the virus in your town: how many infections today? deaths? Are people соблюдают карантинные меры (keeping quarantine measures)?
  • Talk about the virus in Russian. When reading or watching the news, take the numbers and statistics and make phrases with them in Russian.

Basically, practice, practice, and more practice.


Podcast description & translation:

"Санкт-Петербург занимает третье место в России по количеству заболевших коронавирусом, а по летальности — первое. Больницы не справляются с наплывом пациентов, но в городе ослабляют ограничения. Как Петербург борется с вирусом?"

Translation: Saint Petersburg is third in Russia by the number of people infected with the coronavirus, but first by lethality. Hospitals aren't able to handle the influx of patients, but restrictions are being eased in the city. How is [St.] Petersburg fighting the virus?"

How to say "Coronavirus" in Russian

In Russian, the coronavirus is коронавирус. To be more accurate (there are many coronaviruses), say ковид-19 (COVID-19). In the podcast, you'll hear it shortened to ковид (COVID). In official statements, you'll hear коронавирусная инфекция (the coronavirus infection).

In speech, the most common is probably коронавирус, followed by ковид. Pay attention to the stress - it's not cOvid, but кови́д (kavId).

We're living в эпоху коронавируса (in the age of the coronavirus), and are dealing with the коронакризис (coronacrisis).

Forming compound words: covid- and corona-

You'll hear both ковид- and корона- used to form new words. From корона- we get коронакризис and from ковид- – ковид-диссидент (a covid-dissident). For example, Петербург выглядел совсем "ковид-диссидентски" ([St.] Petersburg looked completely "covid-dissident").

Talking about infection and being sick with the coronavirus.

Getting sick

Ты можешь подхватить вирус и заболеть (you can catch [informal] a virus and get sick), and then ты болеешь (you're sick). Add коронавирусом after to say 'with the coronavirus', or leave it out if it's clear from the context.

"I'm sick":

  • Я заболел/а ковидом/коронавирусом (I got sick/I caught the coronavirus)
  • Я болею коронавирусом (I'm sick with the coronavirus)

Other people:

  • Брат болеет коронавирусом (My brother is sick with the coronavirus)
  • У меня (есть) коронавирус (I have the coronavirus - compare with 'I have the flu')
  • Моя мама заболела коронавирусом (My mom caught the coronavirus)
  • На прошлой неделе у меня коллега на работе заболел ковидом (Last week a colleague at my work caught the coronavirus)

Infections and getting infected with the coronavirus in Russian

An infection is a зараза, and from that we get the perfective/imperfective pair заразить/заражать (to infect). A case of infection is a заражение - there can be много заражений somewhere (many infections), or мало заражений (few infections).

To talk about someone getting infected with COVID-19, we use заразиться/заражаться (the two verbs above with the reflexive -ся). For example, я заразился ковидом (I got infected with covid[-19]). Заразиться is more specific than заболеть: getting infected vs getting sick. So you'll see заразиться used to talk about the danger of getting infected in, for example, a bar.


  • Как там опасно заразиться! (How dangerous it is to get infected there! [from the podcast])
  • Там было/есть очень много заражений среди медработников (There were/are very many infections among medical workers there)

Talking about the incidence of COVID-19 in Russian

Заболеваемость (sickness rate, disease incidence) is the occurance of disease among a given population, and comes from the root  забол-. Заболеваемость в Украине растёт (The disease incidence in Ukraine is growing). A place - район, город, область, страна (neighborhood, city, region, country) - can have высокая или низкая заболеваемость (high or low disease incidence).


  • В моем районе очень высокая заболеваемость (The disease incidence is really high in my neighborhood)
  • В Москве высокая заболеваемость (The sickness rate is high in Moscow)
  • На Аляске низкая заболеваемость (In Alaska the sickness rate is low)

Daily cases/New infections of COVID-19

A case of coronavirus infection is a случай; e.g. a headline for a graph of daily cases on meduza.io reads: "Число новых случаев COVID-19 за сутки в России" (The number of daily new cases of COVID-19 in Russia).


  • Вчера в моем городе было 20 новых случаев коронавируса (There were 20 new cases of the coronavirus in my town yesterday)
  • За сутки в Украине было около 800 подтвержденных случаев ковид-19 (There were around 800 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ukraine for the day)

We call people who became sick заболевшие (from заболеть). Use this to talk about the number of newly sick in a given period: В Москве очень много заболевших (There are very many infected/sick in Moscow). You can also say how many: 100, 800, 13000 заболевших for a day, week, month, or year (за день, неделю, месяц, год). For example, мы сейчас видим около 10,000 заболевших за день (we are seeing around 10,000 sick a day)

Talk about Coronavirus Deaths and Mortality in Russian

From умереть (to die) we get смерть (death, a death) and смертность (mortaility). Смертность растёт и падает (Mortality rises and falls); in the past, смертность выросла и упала (mortality rose and fell). Use от коронавируса to say 'from/becaus of the coronavirus' with all of the above words: Он умер от воронавируса (He died from the coronavirus), смертность от коронавируса выросла (mortality from the coronavirus rose).

More examples:

  • Всего 248 человек умерло (All in all 248 people have died)
  • У нас много смертей от коронавируса (We have a lot of deaths from the coronavirus)
  • "В Петербурге самая высокая смертность от ковида в России" (Meduza) - 'St. Petersburg has the highest mortality from COVID[-19] in Russia'

Talking about the healthcare system, hospitals, and doctors

The healthcare system (система здравоохранения) includes больницы and поликлиники (hospitals and clinics) which принимают пациентов (accept or take in patients). You'll also see the noun form, приём пациентов (acceptance of patients).

Hospitals have койки ([hospital] beds). A hospital may have свободные койки (empty beds), or нет свободных койек (no empty/free beds).

An ambulance  is a скорая. For example, a hospital might recieve 143 скорых в день (143 ambulences in a day).

Medical personal (медперсонал), medical workers (медработники) and doctors (врачи) work in hospitals. A senior doctor is a главный врач, while at a country level, there's the главный санитарный врач (chief public health physician, chief public doctor).

Personal protection: masks, gloves, and antiseptic

A medical worker носит средства инидвидуальный защиты (wears personal protective equipment [PPE]): костюм, маску, перчатки (gown, mask, gloves). In addition to маски there are more protective респираторы (respirators), like the N95.

Just like you'll hear PPE to talk about protective equipment, Russian has "сизи" for средства индивидуальной защиты.

For sanitation, people используют антисептик (use hand sanitizer), but you still need to мыть руки (wash your hands).

Talking about the quarantine

The карантин (quarantine) is when я остаюсь дома (I stay home), and рестораны, бары, торговые центры, кинотеатры (restaurants, bars, shopping centers, movie theaters) are закрыты (closed). When they relax the quarantine, they открывают рестораны (they open restaurants). You'll also hear открываются/закрываются (are opening/closing) with the above words: рестораны сегодня открываются (restaurants are opening today), or in the past: вчера и бары открылись (yesterday bars opened, too).

Complying with the quarantine

Ты соблюдаешь карантин? (Do you comply with the quarantine?) Да, я соблюдаю карантин! (Yes, I'm complying with the quarantine). The quarantine is made up of карантинные меры (quarantine measures), like социальное дистанцирование (social distancing), самоизолизация (self-isolation), and a масочный режим (mask mandate/requirement). We've also seen many ограничения (restrictions), or more specifically карантинные ограничения (quarantine restrictions).

Use соблюдать with all the above (although to self-isolate gets its own verb):

  • Я стараюсь соблюдать все карантинные меры (I try to obey all the quarantine measures)
  • На улице люди никак не соблюдают дистанцию и масочный режим! (People on the street aren't maintaining distance or complying with the mask mandate at all!)
  • У нас на работе обязательный масочный режим (We've got a mandatory face mask policy/mandate at work)

Part of observing the quarantine is самоизоляция (self-isolation). Я вернулась с поездки и самоизолизировалась (I returned from a trip and self-isolated).

To self-isolate is самоизолизироваться:

  • У меня появилась температура и я пошел на самоизоляцию (I got a temperature and went into self-isolation)
  • Я прилетел и самоизолизировался (I flew in and self-isolated)

Getting tested for the coronavirus

There's тестирование на коронавирус (testing for the coronavirus) going on all over. You can сделать/делать тест на коронавирус (lit. 'to do a test' [to get tested] for the coronavirus). In more official language, that's сдать/сдавать тест на коронавирус (to get tested for the coronavirus).

The act of going and getting checked is провериться/проверяться: Я хочу пойти проверяться (I want to go get checked

If your body has built up an иммунитет от коронавируса (immunity to the coronavirus), you'll have антитела (antibodies) in your blood. Use the same делать тест/сдавать тест but instead of на коронавирус, say на антитела: я сдала тест на антитела (I got tested for antibodies).