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The first quarantine year: how Ukraine has survived it and what will be the second year

Exactly one year ago, on March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in the world. At the same time, the Ukrainian government announced the introduction of quarantine. The Page has collected information on how the quarantine year passed for Ukrainians and what to expect next.

Quarantine chronicles: how Ukrainians lived for a year in a new reality

Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv, was the first to announce the quarantine. The Kyiv city state administration decided to take the lead in order to protect people: in those days, not a single case of coronavirus infection was recorded in Kyiv. The quarantine was expected to be in effect until the end of March 2020. By the way, in Ukraine, the first recorded case of infection was recorded on March 3.

Immediately after, the Cabinet of Ministers introduced quarantine on the whole territory of Ukraine until April 3. The quarantine provided for the closure of air transportation with some countries, the closure of educational institutions, a ban on mass events with the participation of more than 200 people, and the cancellation of screenings in cinemas.

On March 12, two more cases of infection were identified. On March 13, the first death from coronavirus in Ukraine was recorded: a 71-year-old woman from the Zhytomyr region died. On the same day, the National Security and Defense Council adopted a decision to close Ukrainian borders to foreign citizens from March 16. The decree was signed by President Volodymyr Zelensky immediately.

On March 17, 2020, it was decided to stop the work of the Kyiv metro. On March 23, restrictions were imposed on the use of ground public transport. The capital's public transport carried only those passengers traveling to work at enterprises that provide critical areas of city life. These were medical workers, rescuers, law enforcement officers, housing and public utilities specialists, employees of grocery stores and pharmacies, employees of strategic enterprises. Passengers used special passes, without them it was impossible to use public transport.

Despite the fact that the first case of recovery was recorded on March 20, the coronavirus continued to spread throughout Ukraine. Already on March 25, the Cabinet of Ministers introduced an emergency regime and extended the quarantine until April 24. The ban on intercity passenger transportation and restrictions on the operation of public transport continued to be valid. Grocery stores and pharmacies could continue to work. For violation of quarantine rules, the Rada established a fine of 17,000 UAH.

By the end of April 2020, the number of infections exceeded 10,000. Entrepreneurs went to a rally to the Cabinet of Ministers with demands to ease quarantine. Later, the Cabinet of Ministers allowed the markets to work, subject to compliance with the rules and coronavirus restrictions.

On May 11, the Cabinet of Ministers relaxed the quarantine. It was allowed to open recreation areas, squares and parks, summer food courts of cafes and restaurants, museums and libraries, beauty salons, dental departments, etc. On June 3, the Cabinet of Ministers decided on the date of the passenger flights resumption: passenger flights were allowed to resume from June 5, and international flights—on the 15th. In mid-June, cafes, restaurants, and nightclubs could receive fines ranging from 34,000 UAH to 340,000 UAH for violating quarantine. However, the Cabinet subsequently relaxed the quarantine and allowed catering establishments to let visitors into the premises.

On June 17, Ukraine was not included in the Ministry of Health list of the "green" zone from, having dropped into the "red" zone. This happened due to the fact that the threshold of 40 cases of infection per 100,000 population was exceeded. On June 21, the total number of deaths from coronavirus in Ukraine exceeded 1000 people.

On July 11, the Cabinet of Ministers introduced fines for non-observance of the mask regime. For citizens, the fine for violation of the mask regime in public places was 170-255 UAH. On July 18, the Chief Sanitary Doctor Viktor Lyashko announced the introduction of quarantine zones. The territories were assigned a specific color—green, yellow, orange, or red, depending on the level of coronavirus spread. Coronavirus restrictions were introduced in each of the zones. Every Friday, the State Commission on Technogenic and Environmental Safety and Emergencies holds meetings and determines the level of coronavirus spread in Ukraine. Following the meeting, the coronavirus zones were updated. There were rumors about the postponement of the local elections in 2020, if more than 50% of the territory of Ukraine were in the "red" zone of the coronavirus spread.

On August 26, the Cabinet of Ministers closed the entry to Ukraine for foreigners until the end of September. At the same time, the Cabinet of Ministers banned mass events in Uman in September: the Hasidim were unable to make a pilgrimage to Ukraine on the holiday of the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah. Already in September, about a 1000 Hasidic pilgrims were stuck on the Belarusian-Ukrainian border. By this time, the number of new coronavirus infections in Ukraine was in the thousands.

In September 2020, the news was full of headlines about infection and death abysmal records. On September 18, the Ministry of Health updated the treatment protocols.

In early October, the first wave of coronavirus bed occupancy exceeded 60%. Earlier, the Ministry of Health announced that it would propose to introduce increased quarantine restrictions across the country if the occupancy rate of beds for patients with coronavirus in hospitals exceeds this figure. Since October 1, 2020, due to an increase in cases of coronavirus infection, the Verkhovna Rada temporarily stopped working. Coronavirus exceeded 10,000 infections per day in November 2020. By the end of the month, 16,000 infections were recorded. Talking about the introduction of a lockdown started again, but local elections were held in Ukraine, and the quarantine was not tightened. Ukraine turned out to be among the countries with the most difficult situation. It ranked seventh in terms of the number of new coronavirus cases and fourth in terms of mortality. In terms of testing and identifying patients with COVID-19, Ukraine was in last place in Europe.

Then talking about the emergence of a Ukrainian vaccine against coronavirus started. On October 22, it was reported that a consortium of DiaPrep companies, as well as Ukrainian scientists and academicians, in particular from the Institute of Microbiology of the National Academy of Sciences, had been developing a vaccine for six months. A little later, Ukraine became a candidate for testing a vaccine against coronavirus from Johnson & Johnson.

According to the State Statistics Service, for 10 months of 2020, Ukrainian business has become poorer by 250 billion UAH. The President decides on a one-time financial aid for Ukrainians who have lost part of their income due to quarantine, and for businesses that should reduce employee costs in the amount of 8,000 UAH.

From November 14 to November 30, 2020, the "weekend quarantine" began. Some establishments continued to work in circumvention of the prohibitions. On November 27, as many as 16,218 infections were recorded per day. On other days in November, the numbers of new cases were not much lower.

In December, Minister of Health Stepanov announced the timing of the coronavirus vaccine delivery of to Ukraine. By the end of the month, the Ministry of Health approved a plan for the mass vaccination of Ukrainians. On December 22, 2020, the total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ukraine exceeded one million.

On January 8, 2021, a two-week lockdown began. During this time, cafes, bars, clubs, and restaurants were closed (except for delivery). Events, the work of educational institutions, except for kindergartens, were prohibited. On January 28, the Rada agreed to preclinical vaccinations. In February, the Cabinet of Ministers banned the registration of Russian vaccines against coronavirus.

The first vaccination against coronavirus with the medication CoviShield was given in Ukraine on February 24. In Kyiv the vaccination process with an analogue of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine—CoviShield began on February 25. Later, a website for registering for coronavirus vaccinations began to work. Sign up for the queue can be made in the app;ication Diia.

In total within a pandemic year in Ukraine, 1,425,522 people got sick, 27,685 died, and 1,210,246 recovered.

What awaits us next

In 2021, the epidemic situation in the world will become more manageable, but the year will still be the year of a pandemic, according to the WHO Regional Director for Europe, Hans Kluge.

Vaccination has begun, but the number of infections in Ukraine is increasing again. According to Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and Minister of Health Maksym Stepanov, the third wave of coronavirus has begun in our country.

Now four regions of the country: Chernivtsi region, Zakarpattia region, Ivano-Frankivsk region, and Zhytomyr region are in the "red" zone of the coronavirus spread. But according to Stepanov, the peak incidence will be in March and April.

The spring wave of coronavirus is more dangerous than the autumn wave, because it has a characteristic rapid development, according to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

"The spring wave of COVID-19 will be much higher and faster than the autumn one, and can become a national disaster," said Volodymyr Halytskiy, a scientist at the Palladin Institute of Biochemistry of the National Academy of Sciences.

If most regions get into the "red" zone, the country may indeed face a lockdown.

Shmyhal has already announced a strict lockdown if most regions get into the "red" zone of epidemic danger. But according to Zelensky, the best response to the growing number of COVID patients is to accelerate vaccinations, not a lockdown.

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