Dr. Vladyslav Karpenko, infectious disease specialist, treated the first coronavirus patient in his hospital. Photo: Kyiv Volunteer Headquarters Facebook page.
Two months of quarantine brought significant economic losses to Ukraine that can cost several percent of the country’s GDP this year, but all the government’s measures have only led to a temporary draw in the fight against the coronavirus. Ukraine, as per official data, is atop a plateau on the chart of the infection’s spread: the daily amount of new cases is not going up, but it’s not falling, either. At the same time, the tally of COVID-19 patients continues to grow. Ukraine is among the countries that haven’t been able to overcome the pandemic yet, according to the website endcoronavirus.org.
Countries that are losing the fight against COVID-19, or like Ukraine, are at a stalemate in fighting the spread of the infection:
Texty.org.ua explored reasons that had led to the current situation. There are several of the government’s failures to be mentioned.
- Failing to prepare the medical system in January and February led, among other things, to Ukraine’s percentage of infected medical workers being among the largest in the world. This includes members of the government profiting off sales of protective equipment to other countries at the start of the pandemic.
- Inability or unwillingness to force the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP) to observe restrictive measures;
- Inability or unwillingness to ensure the isolation of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians returning from abroad.
In fact, the introduction of quarantine in a timely manner prevented Ukraine from the collapse of the medical system (although, the charts of the population’s mobility show that the Ukrainian lockdown was one of the mildest in the world).
However, at the end of April, the effectiveness of some restrictive measures started coming to naught as people were making it out of self-isolation in their own way – some followed bad examples such as the Veliur restaurant that made headlines because it remained open for Zelenskyy’s MPs amid the quarantine, while other people due to the economic impossibility to stay at home any longer.
Medical masks could be a relatively cheap and effective way to limit the spread of infection, however, people wore them responsibly (on their faces, not on their chins) only in the first month of the lockdown. To make matters worse, the percentage of people wearing masks was insufficient even at the beginning of the quarantine. It is another communication failure by the government that failed to persuade citizens to take mask-wearing seriously.
Finally, the key point is testing for COVID-19, which Ukraine does at a much smaller rate than other countries. The situation has not improved much since mid-March when the issue was revealed as Ukraine remains at the bottom of the list in terms of the number of per-capita tests in the world and as of 8 May, it was last among the European countries by this criterion.
A very likely scenario for Ukraine for the end of the quarantine restrictions is that just three to four weeks later, the lack of sufficient testing may lead to a new wave of rapid growth in the number of patients. Without another lockdown, this possible second wave can be stopped only by strict self-discipline in social distancing, mass mask-wearing, and boosting the number of tests to detect hotbeds of disease in a timely manner. Is this possible? So far, we haven’t seen the government’s ability to ensure at least one of these points. Ukrainians may find themselves quarantined once again approximately in the middle of the summer.
However, a new quarantine without mass testing and other measures can take Ukraine back to a similar state of unstable equilibrium, though with a larger number of COVID-19 patients. Again, the country will suffer great economic losses, and, at the same time, it won’t be able to overcome the spread of the virus completely. And the new economic downturn will significantly exceed the several dozens of millions of dollars required to set up a program of mass testing today.
Note: The charts by endcoronavirus.org in the article have shortcomings in methodology and simplify the big picture. The classification of some countries listed as “almost successful” can be considered questionable, like Iran’s. However, the conclusion on Ukraine is still valid with reaching a similar number of new patients every day after 2 months of quarantine. This means that Ukraine hasn’t been able to overcome the epidemic unlike the countries shown in the last image.
- COVID-19 narratives high but declining, Ukraine on the rise in Russian propaganda
- Procurement scandal hits Ukraine’s Health Ministry as medics lack COVID-19 protective gowns
- Ukraine eases COVID-19 restrictions as resistance to quarantine grows
- Interactive COVID-19: Ukraine and world
- New stories, old plots: how pro-Kremlin disinfo outlets capitalize on COVID-19 outbreak
- COVID-19 death toll hits 52 in Ukraine, cases surpass 1,600 amid tightened quarantine restrictions
- Ukraine extends quarantine, introduces emergency situation regime amid reports on two more COVID-19 deaths
- No coronavirus testing in Russia-occupied territories of Ukraine: extent of epidemic unknown