KYIV – On November 9, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy informed the public that he had tested positive for COVID-19. “Despite all the quarantine measures, I also received a + result. I have 37.5. I wish everyone 36.6!” Mr. Zelenskyy wrote on his Facebook page. (The reference was to his body temperature.) He added that he was feeling well and would continue to work in isolation.
“I was even a little surprised how I escaped the infection when my family fell ill [in June]. Unfortunately, we have to accept this axiom: everyone is at risk until there is a reliable vaccine. The only thing we can do is try to break the chains of infection and thus significantly reduce the load on the hospitals,” the president added.
The next day, President Zelenskyy held several calls in self-isolation. One of them was a phone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who wished Ukraine’s president good health and a speedy recovery. The leaders discussed developments in Ukraine and Germany related to the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. Mr. Zelenskyy requested that Ukraine’s access to the coronavirus vaccine, which is currently being developed within the framework of the COVAX International Fund, be broadened.
“We welcome the breakthrough achieved by the German company BioNTech together with the American company Pfizer in the development of a coronavirus vaccine. This is very encouraging news. I would like to ask for your assistance in taking into account the interests of Ukraine when planning the supply of COVID-19 vaccine,” Mr. Zelenskyy said. The parties agreed to further coordinate efforts to overcome the impact of the pandemic.
“We will win this difficult battle,” Mr. Zelenskyy wrote on his Facebook page on November 9. “Mankind has learned a lot this year. There are treatment protocols, and there are effective drugs; there is an understanding of how and when the world will see vaccines. Ukraine has also come a long way from almost completely collapsing medical and laboratory systems to the ability to cope when we have 10,000 infections a day and do 50,000 tests a day. A year ago, such potential was not even close. I am grateful to everyone who wishes me a speedy recovery. I believe the coronavirus will not withstand the warmth of your words.”
Back on June 9, Mr. Zelenskyy told the media outlet Ukrayinska Pravda that he had considered the idea of infecting himself with the coronavirus on purpose. “I suggested, I’ll get sick, we will isolate me right away on Bankova Street. And I will live through it normally so that people understand that this is scary, you can get sick, you feel bad. And I will let it pass through myself, and I will show them,” the president said in June. “So that people understand that this is not a plague. To avoid depression. At the very beginning, there was a very terrible moment when people thought we were all going to die. But, of course, my family would not forgive me. They would say that I am crazy. And they would be right,” Mr. Zelenskyy added.
Together with the president, several high-ranking Ukrainian officials fell ill with the coronavirus. In late October, it was reported that several deputy heads of the Presidential Office were suspected of having the coronavirus, and two deputies, Yulia Kovaliv and Andriy Smirnov, were confirmed as having COVID-19. The head of the Presidential Office, Andriy Yermak, also confirmed that he is COVID-positive. Reuters reported on November 9 that Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko’s office said he had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and would work remotely and Ukrinform reported that Defense Minister Andriy Taran had also tested positive.
In June, the president’s wife, Olena Zelenska, fell ill with COVID-19, and later the 7-year-old son of the Zelenskyys, Kyrylo, also contracted the coronavirus.
On November 10, Mr. Zelenskyy initiated the Healthy Nation program, which will contain practical recommendations for citizens to promote health, prevent diseases and overcome their consequences so that people are not left alone with illnesses, in particular the coronavirus.
According to the president, the pandemic has shown that people who have strong immunity and exercise regularly have a milder course of the coronavirus infection and recover faster. Therefore, the emphasis should be placed on prevention, not just treatment. “It’s time to exercise, drink vitamins. This is the time to set up a sports health program for the nation to improve the health of the nation,” Mr. Zelenskyy said.
“COVID-19 tells us that the national idea is a healthy nation. The current period can unite people in the west and the east. Today, the problem of COVID-19, the problem of health, is a priority for everyone. Therefore, today, at this time, people who are leaders, athletes, could give hope [and]specific recommendations,” said Mr. Yermak, the head of the Presidential Office.
On November 11, Ukraine’s government introduced a weekend quarantine. This approach was chosen when officials understood that the economy would not withstand a full lockdown. So, the government and the Ministry of Health, together with epidemiologists, analysts and business representatives, developed a balanced version of additional quarantine restrictions.
“I understand that the new restrictions are unpleasant and painful for many members of the business, entertainment and cultural community. The government is ready to lend a hand to support our entrepreneurs during the intensified quarantine regime on the weekends,” said Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal during a regular meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine on November 11.
The weekend quarantine is a set of measures that take place each Saturday and Sunday. During these two days, bars, restaurants, cafes and other catering establishments are closed. Only take-outs are allowed. Shopping centers and entertainment establishments are closed. Establishments of trade and consumer services are closed, except for trade in food, fuel, medicines and medical products, as well as veterinary drugs. Gyms and swimming pools are closed.
Establishments that provide financial and postal services, medical and veterinary practices, gas and service stations (except for food areas) will continue to function. Cultural institutions are closed.
These measures are in addition to previously enacted restrictions. Throughout Ukraine, events with more than 20 people continue to be forbidden. Work from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. in catering establishments (restaurants, cafes, bars, snack bars, canteens, buffets, etc.), is prohibited, except for the sale of take-out food and deliveries.
“A temporary quarantine for the weekends, for a few weeks, can help us avoid a hard lockdown. In this way, we will avoid a large increase in patients and have time to prepare the required number of beds. Increasing the number of beds, wearing masks and a temporary quarantine on the weekends will have a good effect. Our scenario of the epidemic situation in the cold season will not be the worst,” Mr. Zelenskyy assured the public.
According to the Public Health Center of Ukraine, as of November 11 there were 10,611 new officially confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ukraine. Since the pandemic began in Ukraine, 489,808 persons contracted COVID-19; 221,459 people recovered; 8,947 people died; 3,735,166 tests have been conducted. The largest number of confirmed cases as of November 10 were registered in the city of Kyiv (965 cases), the Odesa region (705), Kyiv region (693), Lviv region (684 cases) and Zaporizhia region (592 cases).