Political leaders and COVID-19: Ukraine’s top officials contract coronavirus

In Ukraine, the coronavirus pandemic is gaining momentum. As daily cases near 12,000, health authorities report that hospitals are running out of beds, and the government has introduced a nationwide “weekend lockdown”. Meanwhile, a number of high-ranking officeholders including President Zelenskyi have contracted the virus. Read on.   

President and Presidential Office chief test positive. On November 9, President Volodymyr Zelenskyi and the head of the Office of the President Andriy Yermak had positive coronavirus tests. 

“Unfortunately, the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyi tests positive for COVID-19 infection. The Head of the State feels well and will continue working remotely while self-isolating. He will be provided with the necessary communication tools and equipment,” reads the statement issued by the President’s Office. 

On a social media account, Zelenskyi wrote: “No one in the world is lucky to be protected against the COVID-19 threat. Despite all quarantine measures, I’ve tested positive too. I have a temperature of 37.5°C, my wish for all is 36.6°C! However I feel well. I promise to self-isolate, I keep working. The majority of people recover from COVID-19, I will do so too. Everything is going to be fine!”

On the same day, the Head of the President’s Office Andriy Yermak reported he had tested positive too. “At the end of the working day, I got excessively ‘positive’ news: I tested positive for coronavirus, but I feel well,” Yermak wrote on Facebook. “This week, a video conference of the advisors to the Normandy (Four) leaders is scheduled. That is one of my top priorities, so I have no time to be sick. While I will self-isolate, I will be still working as normal without slowing down. If the negotiations do not take place this week, it will certainly not be my fault. Friends, I call on everyone not to disregard the quarantine rules,” Head of the President’s Office added.

The news that came later, said Zelenskyi and Yermak were both transferred to the state hospital “Feofania”.

Also, on November 9, the Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko was reported as having tested positive.

Coronavirus spreads to the Parliament. On November 11, the head of the Parliament Dmytro Razumkov also got a positive test result. “Everyone is at risk of contracting the coronavirus. Today, the disease hit my family, I got a positive test result. I feel well, hope, it continues like that,” Razumkov wrote on Facebook. He said he will isolate and work remotely.  

The next day, November 12, the first deputy head of the Parliament Ruslan Stefanchuk wrote on Facebook that he tested positive for COVID-19: “My positive mood was followed by a positive test. Neither the masks that I was actually wearing all the time starting from March, nor the gloves, nor disinfection saved me. Seems like I need to meet this challenge, so I’m out for a while.”

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, 75 MPs, or one in six lawmakers, have contracted COVID-19. “Dzerkalo Tyzhnia” (Mirror of the Week) media quotes sources at the Parliament’s Secretariat as saying that there are 14 active cases in the Parliament. 

To remind, high-profile figures to have recovered from coronavirus include first lady Olena Zelenska, “Batkivshyna” party leader Yulia Tymoshenko, MP Vadym Novynskyi, and former President Petro Poroshenko. 

COVID-19 situation in the country. In the past weeks, Ukraine recorded a spike in coronavirus infections. On November 12, the number of daily cases, 11,057 hit a record high; 198 patients died, and 6,235 recovered. 

Since the pandemic started, Ukraine has recorded 500,865 cases, 227,694 recoveries, and 9,145 deaths.  

Weekend lockdown. Ukraine is not ready to return to a strict lockdown that was introduced in spring. Meanwhile, on November 11, the government rolled out new weekend restrictions. Restaurants, bars, cafes, shopping malls, and cinemas will stay closed on weekends. The government issued a respective order at the Wednesday sitting. Beauty salons, gyms, swimming pools, and arts venues will also close on Saturdays and Sundays.  

The weekend lockdown goes into effect on November 14. The restrictions will stay in place for the next three weekends in a row, until November 30, Healthcare Minister Maksym Stepanov said. 

Earlier, President Zelenskyi said the weekend restrictions will be imposed for several weeks and are called to prevent the need for a strict lockdown.

Local authorities in protest. At the same time authorities in a number of cities refuse to abide to the government’s decision, with Rivne, Odesa, and Lviv among them. For example, Lviv mayor Andriy Sadovyi said the city council will appeal the government’s order in court. On weekends, venues of the service sector get about 40 per cent of their weekly income, the mayor explained. The restrictions will destroy businesses, as the state provides no reimbursement to entrepreneurs. 

Cherkasy mayor Anatoliy Bondarenko said the weekend lockdown is not appropriate for small towns.

“I am ready to support the government’s decisions, but only if the city gets support from the government. Current situation is not like that,” Bondarenko is quoted as saying. He added that on weekends, people in Cherkasy are mostly up to outdoor activities. Big shopping malls represent a greater risk than small shops, he said.  

Nationwide orange zone on weekdays. On weekdays, restriction measures of the orange zone will take effect across Ukraine. Sporting events and religious services of over 20 people are now banned. Cinemas and theatres cap their capacity at 50 per cent on weekdays. In public transport, only seats are to fill.

Discotheques, entertainment venues, and night clubs stay closed. On weekdays, restaurants, bars, and cafes are required to close from 22:00 to 07:00. In restaurants, tables need to be spaced at least two meters apart, with no more than four guests per table. Mask-wearing is provisioned for guests upon entry and while moving across the venue.

Restrictions for gyms and fitness centers on weekdays require a maximum density of one person per 20 square meters.