KYIV – For the last week, Ukrainians found themselves in an uncertain state of quarantine. On the one hand, the government plan of lifting restrictions continued in most regions, and life was returning to normal. On the other, the number of new COVID-19 cases spiked and set new records.
In the last seven days, 4,853 people contracted the coronavirus in Ukraine, which is the highest rate yet since the pandemic hit Ukraine. Consequently, on June 17, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine extended the quarantine restrictions until July 31.
“The weakening of quarantine measures was taken by many as the abolition of quarantine. Hence, it resulted in a worsening of the situation,” Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said at the government’s meeting on June 17. “The coronavirus has not disappeared, and the threats posed by it to our medical system and the Ukrainian economy have not diminished. I understand that people are tired of quarantine in any variant, but there is currently no more effective way to counter the spread of the virus. I urge Ukrainians not to relax and to keep it real!”
The head of government urged Ukrainians to wear face masks, maintain social distancing and employ disinfection measures, as only these measures “will help each of us to protect ourselves from this infection, at least until drugs and effective treatment protocols are invented.” Moreover, Mr. Shmyhal said that the government would consider the Health Ministry’s proposed updated approach to an adaptive quarantine, which envisages the possibility of reinforcing the quarantine in particular regions.
The prime minister said the government is working closely with regional heads, city heads and other local government officials. “Each of these leaders, within the framework of their responsibility, understanding the level of threat and the morbidity rate, takes concrete measures and has all the tools to make decisions …to introduce tougher measures,” explained Mr. Shmyhal.
He underlined that local authorities should carefully pay attention to public transport issues. Queues to board buses and small minibuses with a lot of people inside are high-risk places for possible infection. The prime minister separately addressed the minister of infrastructure with a demand that he pay attention to what is being done in suburban trains to exercise control and ensure compliance with requirements for the number of people in train cars, the wearing of face masks and other measures required by the government.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reported that the number of tests for COVID-19 had increased, and on average about 20,000 tests are carried out per day. The increase in the number of coronavirus cases could be caused by the rise in the number of tests administered; therefore, before deciding on more severe restrictive measures, it is necessary to understand the reasons for the increase in the number of patients, he explained.
The president added: “All relevant authorities should focus the public’s attention on the need to comply with the mask regime and social distancing on the street. I see that people walk around without masks. Only the observance of security measures will protect us from the threat of getting sick and save our economy from quarantine.”
“We need to carefully check shops, markets, public transport – places where crowds are possible. The institutions and platforms that are supposed to ensure the security stipulated by the Cabinet of Ministers are responsible for these crowds,” Mr. Zelenskyy said.
The chief of the National Police of Ukraine, Ihor Klymenko, reported that more than 12,500 administrative protocols were drawn up for violations of quarantine restrictions, and the courts have ruled on fines totaling 4.5 million hrv.
Most cafes and restaurants have opened up in the form of summer terraces. This was easily noticed in Kyiv, where newly opened terraces often blocked pedestrian walkways with tables and chairs. Crowds were seen gathering in the city center, and masks were usually not in evidence.
Most people feel as if the quarantine has ended. Some cafes even allowed customers to enter and sit inside; their managers say that they either have special permission or that they did not understand that Kyiv is among those cities where the quarantine restrictions are not being eased. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko stated that cafes and restaurants are not open for indoor service.
The chief state sanitary doctor of Ukraine, Viktor Liashko, said on June 10: “Right now, we have several regions that show [coronavirus]rates above 12 cases per 100,000 population. In particular, these are Kyiv city, and the Volyn, Zhytomyr, Zakarpattia, Lviv, Rivne and Chernivtsi regions. These regions cannot loosen quarantine measures.” Moreover, Dr. Liashko stressed that, in all areas that are allowed to open within the framework of the adaptive quarantine, temporary recommendations for anti-epidemic measures have been instituted.
First Lady Olena Zelenska was hospitalized in Kyiv with COVID-19, just four days after she tested positive for the coronavirus on June 12, the Presidential Office announced. “I feel good, but I am in outpatient treatment, isolated from other family members in order to not endanger them,” she wrote on her Instagram account when it first became known she had tested positive. Ms. Zelenska’s current diagnosis is bilateral polysegmental pneumonia of moderate severity. She is in stable condition and does not require supplemental oxygen.
On June 15, her husband and their two children tested negative for the coronavirus.
Ms. Zelenska said it is unclear how she contracted COVID-19 as she had tested negative at the beginning of June. The first lady said she had followed all the quarantine rules of the Ministry of Health, including wearing a mask and gloves and minimizing contacts. Ms. Zelenska also cautioned that the country’s easing of quarantine restrictions does not mean the end of the epidemic and noted that the danger is still present. She stressed the importance of wearing a mask in public to protect other people and as a sign of respect for others.
After the first lady tested positive for the coronavirus, President Zelenskyy switched to a special work mode. Under the Constitution of Ukraine, the president cannot delegate his powers to anyone. Situations of self-isolation and quarantine were not envisaged in the Constitution. That is why a special protocol for the president’s work mode was adopted, meeting both the norms of the current legislation and the sanitary-epidemiological requirements of the day.
Mr. Zelenskyy’s health status allows him to perform his official duties. He undergoes daily testing, as well as medical examinations. He limits his range of physical communication and holds meetings online. Face-to-face meetings involving personal interaction with the president are not allowed. Participation in mass events also is excluded, and working trips outside the capital are canceled. The circle of persons with whom the president communicates in person is narrowed down to security staff and his closest aides.
The Cabinet of Ministers is preparing procedures for insurance payments to the families of deceased and affected health-care workers struggling with the COVID-19 epidemic. According to Prime Minister Shmyhal, payments will be made depending on whether the health-care worker became infected directly when counteracting the coronavirus or in other circumstances. Among other things, this includes payments of 1.567 million hrv. to the families of health-care workers who died of coronavirus contracted while performing their professional duties; 210,000 if a health-care worker fell ill and died, but not as a result of his work with COVID-19 patients; as well as payments to health-care workers in cases of disability caused by the coronavirus infection.
According to the Public Health Center of Ukraine, as of 9 a.m. on June 17, in Ukraine, there were 33,234 officially confirmed COVID-19 cases, 943 patients died, and 14,943 people recovered. There were 2,445 COVID-19 cases among children and 5,650 cases among health-care workers. During the previous 24 hours, 758 new cases were confirmed.
Over 615,000 tests for the coronavirus have been administered in Ukraine.