Ukraine to allow food markets to reopen on May 1, allows some workers to fly abroad

30 April 2020

Ukraine’s cabinet decided at its weekly meeting on Apr. 29 to allow food markets to reopen during the remainder of the quarantine under conditions that sanitary regulations are upheld. The resolution will be published on Apr. 30, after which an estimated 872 food markets will be allowed to reopen, Economic Development, Trade and Agriculture Minister Ihor Petrashko told a press briefing that day. The cabinet approved the reopening based on the regulations for food markets developed by the health and economy ministers, and respective decisions to be reached by the local bodies of the State Food Safety and Consumer Protection Service. Two state service inspectors will have to be present at every market, Petrashko said.


The Ukrainian government is ready to reach agreements with countries interested in officially inviting or reinviting Ukrainian laborers for seasonal work, Olha Kuryshko, the spokeswoman for the prime minster, told the news site in an interview published on Apr. 29. Prime Minister Shmyhal conveyed this decision to E.U. Delegation to Ukraine Head Matti Maasikas and acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Kristina Kvien in a meeting that day. The main condition for the agreements is the legal employment of Ukrainians for no less than three months that includes social guarantees and appropriate work conditions, she said. The agreements will be organized by Ukraine’s Office for Coordination on European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, she said.


Shmyhal’s announcement was made shortly after the news site published a report confirming that the Ukrainian government had canceled a charter flight to Finland with 200 legal workers as part of an agreement for 14,000 seasonal workers that had been reached between the respective governments. “In conditions of a spreading pandemic, any trip – particularly by plane – is exposure to danger,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Apr. 27 to justify the decision. In his turn, Shmyhal said openly in an Apr. 22 interview that the Ukrainian government will try to keep workers from returning abroad. The cabinet made a statement the evening of Apr. 28 that Ukrainians remain forbidden to travel for work abroad, yet permission would be granted for flights that are deemed safe on an individual basis.


A charter plane flying to London from Kyiv was first prohibited by the government, then held up for nearly nine hours on Apr. 29 before it was allowed to depart, the news site reported. The flight’s passengers were Ukrainian citizens with long-term contracts for legal employment in Great Britain, said a statement by Ukrainian International Airlines. The prohibition was imposed by the State Air Service of Ukraine “without any indicated basis and referring to normative documents” two hours before takeoff, the airline said. The flight was eventually allowed to depart at 21:35 local time because of public outcry, the news site said.


Coronavirus infections rose by 540 cases, or 5.5%, from the prior day to a total of 10,406 as of noon, Apr. 30, according to the Center for Public Health of the Health Ministry of Ukraine. An estimated 261 people have died from the COVID-19 disease, an increase of 11 cases from the prior day. Recovered patients rose by 125 cases to 1,238 in total.


Zenon Zawada: While markets will begin to reopen nationwide, authorities in some of the worst stricken regions, such as the Ternopil region, announced the same day they will keep markets closed until May 11. Residents are likely to uphold the decision since a large segment of them derive their income from work abroad, whether their own or from family members, as compared to residents of Ukraine’s other regions, who are more dependent on local trade.


Meanwhile, Ukrainians are already protesting restrictions on traveling for work abroad, and Prime Minister Shmyhal didn’t help himself when making the dubious claim that “Ukraine is also full of work” and the government “will try to create new jobs” for those workers who returned with “very comfortable” small business loans. This case-by-case approach to permitting workers to fly abroad has already embarrassed the government, which needs to draft a policy on travel abroad in line with its “adaptive quarantine” to take effect May 12.

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