Violence grips Ukraine amid coronavirus hysteria
Ukrainian health minister Zoryana Skaletska has visited coronavirus evacuees from China in quarantine after protests outside a health centre.
In other towns, people blocked hospitals, fearing the evacuees might be diverted to them.
At the site in the central Poltava region, protesters blocked the road leading to the spa and threw rocks at buses carrying evacuees.
Riot police eventually allowed the buses to reach the Novi Sanzhary resort after a prolonged standoff.
A total of 45 Ukrainians and 27 foreigners, mostly from Latin America, arrived in Ukraine on Thursday from Wuhan for 14 days of quarantine.
Posting a selfie on Facebook, Skaletska said her visit would be “in the same building, in the same conditions” to ease fears of contagion.
“I hope that my presence there will calm those in Novi Sanzhary and in the rest of the country,” she posted on the social media site.
Skaletska expressed support for the evacuees who agreed to quarantine themselves “for the sake of safety for all of us”.
A bogus health ministry email claimed that five of the evacuees were carrying the coronavirus. The Chinese authorities have not been forthcoming with details about how many people under 70 have died from the coronavirus.
Ukraine Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk blamed the Novi Sanzhary violence on an “information war against our country, both from the inside and the outside”, in an apparent reference to Russia.
“Our health minister has agreed to stay with the citizens in this medical institution,” Honcharuk said. “Her example will prove that there is no danger to Ukrainian citizens.”
The two Ukrainians to be infected with the coronavirus were aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan and have already recovered, as do the vast majority of people who catch the coronavirus.
Ukraine’s Centre of Public Health stated that the reports of infections were fake and asked the media not to repeat rumours.
“Attention! The reports about five confirmed cases of COVID-19 coronavirus in Ukraine are UNTRUE,” the agency said. “We urge the media not to disseminate this information and to inform the press service of the health ministry of the sender of this information upon receipt of the letter.”
The police detained 24 people after clashes. The authorities have appealed for calm, saying the evacuees were tested before being allowed to fly.
The health ministry warned against fake news of five confirmed coronavirus cases in Ukraine.
Ukraine’s intelligence agency, SBU, said it suspected foreign hacking for an email sent on behalf of the health ministry to its mailing list. The Kiev authorities are trying to identify the source of the suspected hacking attack.
Picture credit: YouTube