KYIV, Nov 16 – Ukraine’s healthcare system would collapse if the country eases ‘weekend lockdown’ restrictions imposed by the government, Health Minister Maksym Stepanov, who himself tested positive to the virus, said Monday.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and several government ministers are currently recovering from COVID-19 after contracting the virus last week as the country is displaying rapid spread of the pandemic.
Ukraine recorded 12,524 cases on Saturday, up from 11,787 on Friday, while the country’s healthcare system is expected to run out of hospital beds if the number exceeds 20,000 per day.
The lockdown order, however, met some resistance from some local authorities and businesses, which are on the brink of economic survival, triggering the warning from the health minister.
“If we lift anti-pandemic measures, including the weekend lockdown, we will see the number of cases growing to 20,000-, 25,000- and to 30,000 cases per day,” Stepanov said. “We will very quickly get 100% occupancy of beds in our hospitals and the collapse of the entire healthcare system.”
Stepanov on Saturday likened the coronavirus pandemic to a war waged by Ukraine while reporting daily casualties in the battle against the virus.
“No country in the world has come up with another way to curb the pandemic than the introduction of anti-pandemic measures,” Stepanov said. “Our European neighbors are taking strict quarantine measures."
Ukraine, along with the rest of the world, went on a complete lockdown due to the pandemic in March through early June, with measures helping to slow down the spread of the virus but undermining the economy.
Stepanov said the government is not considering another shutdown of the economy, but admitted the measure is the most effective.
“The best measure is total lockdown, but the state is not able to go for it,” Stepanov said, citing opposition from the Finance Ministry and the Economic Ministry.
The government’s lockdown order is supposed to last from November 14 through November 30. The order requires the closing or restricting of the activity of most businesses, with the exception of grocery stores, pharmacies, hospitals and transport.
Authorities in some cities have said they may ignore the order for economic reasons, but Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal had lashed back against them by saying the government’s order was binding.
Shmyhal said the weekend lockdown measures will show first results of curbing the spread within the next two to three weeks. He said in the meantime, the government has been working on increasing the number of hospital beds and working on financial support for the small businesses suffering from the pandemic. (tl/ez)