Ukraine is at coronavirus infection peak, Shmyhal says

6 May 2020

Ukraine is currently at the peak, or plateau, of the coronavirus infection, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said in an interview with Ukrainian state radio broadcast on May 5. The peak should conclude on May 8-9 if the severe quarantine upheld, he said, given that the infection rate has stabilized to 300-500 cases daily. “That is to say, this is practically the beginning of the conclusion of the epidemic for Ukraine in medical terms,” he said. At the same time, Ukraine will likely extend its quarantine, in relaxed forms, beyond May 22 (the third extension so far) since the extended on May 4 the pandemic regime and global quarantine for two more months.


Meanwhile, the cabinet is currently revising its decision to launch the first phase of the quarantine relaxation as of May 11 to include more enterprises, said on May 5 the website of the Economic Development, Trade and Agriculture Ministry. The final decision will be approved at the weekly cabinet meeting on Wednesday.


The ministry’s statement came after a May 4 video announcement by President Zelensky warning the public against impatience with quarantine measures. “According to research, a full cancelation of the quarantine will have shocking consequences. If we return to a regular rhythm of life tomorrow, this will lead to 120,000 more deaths until the year end. That’s precisely why relaxing the quarantine can’t be premature,” he said. Ukraine could have had 200,000 infections, instead of 12,000, if not for Ukraine’s severe quarantine imposed in mid-March, he said. He credited timely preventative measures, such as the quarantine, and Ukrainian medical workers, with the nation’s success of containing the virus.


Coronavirus infections rose by 487 cases, or 3.8%, from the prior day, to a total of 13,184 as of noon, May 6, according to the Center for Public Health of the Health Ministry of Ukraine. An estimated 327 people have died from the COVID-19 disease, an increase of 11 cases from the prior day. Recovered patients rose 118 to a total of 2,097 cases.


Zenon Zawada: The Zelensky administration is handling the coronavirus situation like most other political problems it has to deal with, such as the healthcare system reform, securing the IMF loan program or even the war in Donbas. This is a populist approach in which it is trying to appeal to the public’s desire for easy short-term solutions, but without violating critical international requirements. It’s these international institutions and their requirements which have saved the Zelensky administration from making disastrous political mistakes, particularly in preventing capitulations to the reckless billionaire Ihor Kolomoisky, as well as to the relentless Russian President Putin.


The government is trying to accommodate Ukrainian business largely out of necessity, understanding that many will resume operations as of May 11 regardless of whether they’re among the chosen for the first phase of quarantine relaxations. And the Kyiv government is concerned that local politicians will capitalize on the resentment of SMEs of selective quarantine restrictions, widely considered to be unfair.


The next big quarantine issue will be Ukrainians seeking to travel to work abroad in greater numbers, the demand for which will swell just as the first phase of quarantine relaxations takes effect. We expect the government to continue its policy of selectively allowing flights of authorized workers abroad in line with overall public sentiment. The government will become less restrictive as public pressure mounts, but remaining within the bounds of international requirements.

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