Kyiv during quarantine. Photo by Olena Makarenko
On 4 May 2020, Ukraine extended its quarantine until 25 May at a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers. However, it will be relaxed in a number of ways. Starting from 11 May, the following venues will start operating once again;
- parks and recreation areas;
- beauty salons and barbershops;
- the majority of shops;
- restaurants will offer take-away;
- cafes and restaurants will offer outdoor seating;
- museums and libraries;
- professional sports teams will resume training in closed sports bases;
- servicing for home appliances;
- dentists, auditors, lawyers, notaries, etc.
Ukraine has been among the least COVID-19-hit nations in Europe, with only Bulgaria having smaller infection rates per million, and Slovakia – smaller death rates per million.
President Zelenskyy credited timely quarantine measures and Ukrainian doctors with Ukraine’s relatively good coronavirus shape. The current measures, enforced since 11 March, have shut down schools, cut off all city, regional, and international transport, closed down restaurants and all non-essential shopping, bans on unmasked walks and public gatherings, moving around in groups, closing playgrounds, and other stringent measures, envisioning strict fines for their violation.
Their relaxation comes amid growing anti-quarantine sentiments. Many Ukrainians all over the country have started to ignore them. A video shared by the Ukrainian online media Ukrayinska Pravda shows small shops being open and people walking around in groups without masks on 3 May. Residents of Lviv were visiting parks in groups and without masks on 2 May. But they were all eclipsed by Cherkasy, a central-Ukrainian town, where on 1 May mayor Anatoliy Bondarenko through the local city council arbitrarily eased the quarantine and allowed most stores, markets, outdoor seating for restaurants, workshops, and salons to operate.
Ukraine’s Health Minister Maksym Stepanov condemned the actions of this rogue city, saying it could have “catastrophic consequences,” and the police opened a criminal investigation. But mayors of Dnipro, Lviv, and Ivano-Frankivsk supported Bondarenko.
In an interview, Bondarenko said that he represented the inhabitants of his city:
“What infuriates the residents of our city the most is that the law of Ukraine is applied selectively. That a simple entrepreneur who feeds his family with a small business, who runs a coffee shop or a small construction shop can’t work, and a big construction hypermarket can’t work.”
Bondarenko referred to the construction hypermarket Epitsentr, which was allowed to work while all other shops except those selling food and medicine were forced to close. After Bondarenko’s demarche, the national police cracked down on the Epitsentr chain of stores for quarantine violations, apparently having noticed them only now.
In a video addressed to President Zelenskyy, Bondarenko said that Cherkasy would “resist” and called out the corruption of Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People party. In the preceding days, journalists revealed that the luxurious Kyiv restaurant “Veliur” belonging to an MP from Zelenkyy’s party, Mykola Tyshchenko, had hosted the private meetings of its VIP clients.
Kyiv restaurant owners protested against this selective approach to the quarantine by staging an outdoor “lunch” in front of the President’s Office.
This and other irritating quarantine rules issued by the central government, like restrictions on visiting parks with children while being able to do so with a dog, and orders to repurpose the local hospital for exclusively COVID-19 cases, which there are not that many of, are the reason the residents of Cherkasy are getting irritated, Bondarenko said.
Meanwhile, healthcare workers of Cherkasy released an appeal stating that quarantine measures should not be cut off abruptly and imploring Ukrainians to observe the restrictions. But the economic distress caused by isolation and the selective application of rules have done their thing: resistance to the lockdown in Ukraine will only grow.