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Ukraine announces emergency lockdown… after New Year, as Kiev struggles to find cash for orders of Covid-19 vaccine

Ukraine announces emergency lockdown… after New Year, as Kiev struggles to find cash for orders of Covid-19 vaccine
A nationwide lockdown will be imposed in Ukraine to prevent coronavirus overwhelming the health system. But, amid rebellions from local authorities, it won’t come into force until after the busy festive period.

The quarantine, announced by Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal on Wednesday, will begin on January 8 and run for just over two weeks. Cafes, restaurants and all non-essential shops will be shuttered under the measures, but ski resorts and hairdressers will be allowed to stay open.

A tough national ‘circuit breaker’ over the Christmas and New Year period had been on the cards, but Kiev claimed that a slight reduction in the number of cases as a result of a weekend lockdown meant the shutdown could be delayed.

Also on rt.com Ukraine's Health Minister diagnosed with Covid-19, after warning that crisis-ridden country's hospitals are facing 'DISASTER'

Analysts, however, were skeptical about this rationale, with some experts taking to Twitter to say that the government was unable or unwilling to lockdown over the festive period due to economic reasons and an inability to actually impose the rules.

A number of the country’s regional leaders had previously refused to enforce measures aimed at slowing the spread of the virus. In November, the mayor of the south coast city of Nikolaev hit out at proposals for the weekend quarantine, saying they’d have a significant impact on “the next budget of our city,” despite testing positive for Covid-19 himself.

The mayor of Lviv in the west of the country told reporters he would refuse to order compliance with the measures. Andriy Sadovy mocked the government's decision, making fun of the weekend quarantine by asking whether “we should also have lunch break quarantines?” He went on to say, “In my opinion, this is nonsense...The city will not make any stupid decisions.”

Ukraine’s health system, already weakened by chronic underfunding and years of political and military conflicts, has struggled to deal with the rise in coronavirus cases in recent months. In November, Health Minister Maxim Stepanov cautioned that “we have reached the point of no return and are close to disaster,” as 1,207 people were hospitalized in a single day. However, the number of positive tests has continued to increase, and both Stepanov and President Volodymyr Zelensky were diagnosed with the virus within weeks of his stark warning.

Also on rt.com Ukraine's Health Minister diagnosed with Covid-19, after warning that crisis-ridden country's hospitals are facing 'DISASTER'

However, while a number of other countries including Russia and the UK have begun mass immunization programs in a bid for a return to normalcy, Ukraine has struggled to secure supplies of a vaccine. While London and Washington have splashed out billions on different formulas, ensuring their place in the order book, Kiev has not. Last month, Zelensky’s government announced that it had approached the World Bank for a loan of $100 million to enable it to buy vaccines, as the country’s infection rate hit a new high. However, despite its financial difficulties, Kiev has refused to engage with Russia, even though Moscow has indicated that it would be willing to supply the country with its Sputnik V vaccine.

On Tuesday, Stepanov told journalists that he had a call with local representatives from the US, in which he implored Washington to consider Ukraine as a priority candidate for handouts of jabs. As a “lower-middle income” nation, Ukraine is eligible for support from the COVAX vaccine access partnership, along with Sudan, Uzbekistan, Zimbabwe and 88 other nations. Kiev hopes to receive the first shipment of vials under the programme in the first quarter of 2021.

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