The head of Ukraine’s health ministry has announced he has tested positive for coronavirus, as some of the country’s regions refuse to implement new government rules aimed at limiting viral transmission.
Maxim Stepanov took to Facebook on Saturday to say that “despite caution and compliance with all safety rules” he had tested positive for Covid-19. “Now I am in self-isolation, at home. I will work remotely, conduct daily briefings from here,” the Minister said.
Last week, the minister had issued a stark warning about the country’s ability to cope with a growing number of cases, telling parliament that “we have reached the point of no return and are close to disaster.”
Ukraine recorded an unprecedented jump in positive tests on Saturday, with 12,524 recorded in a single day. An official total of over 525,000 cases has now been recorded in the country, although the true tally is thought to be considerably higher.
Stepanov is the latest senior government figure in Ukraine to be forced to isolate after contracting the virus. On Thursday, President Volodymyr Zelensky was moved to a specialist hospital ward after announcing he’d tested positive three days before. He told journalists he was feeling “well” and would continue to work.
However, the country’s coronavirus response has been hampered by concerns over its ailing economy, with the government struggling to enforce quarantine measures across a number of regions. Zelensky had announced a nationwide weekend quarantine. Non-essential businesses would be forced to close on Saturdays and Sundays from 14 November until at least the end of the month.
The Mayor of Nikolaev, a city on the country’s south coast, struck out at Kiev over the new rules, declaring that, for economic reasons, he was against the imposition of a weekend quarantine. Alexander Senkevich, who has also tested positive for the virus, cautioned that restrictions would impact “the next budget of our city.” He revealed to journalists that Nikolaev had missed out on 100 million hryvnia ($3.5m) in revenue during the first national lockdown.
The Mayor of Lviv, located in the west of the country and Ukraine’s seventh-largest city, has similarly refused to enforce weekend lockdowns. Speaking earlier this week, 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 that “In my opinion, this is nonsense … The city will not make any stupid decisions.” Explaining his position, he added that there should not be any mass event but “if a person walks into a cafe where there are two or three tables and drinks coffee – how can we speak of any sort of lockdown?”