While there is a growing sense in North America that we may have begun to turn a corner in the fight against the ongoing pandemic, the situation in Ukraine appears to be moving in the opposite direction. There has been a surge in COVID-19 infections, and Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko recently announced that the capital will remain in a lockdown until at least April 30. The move comes after city authorities last month closed schools and kindergartens, theaters and shopping centers, while cafés and restaurants were only allowed to provide takeaway service. Public transportation in Kyiv is now operating on special passenger passes for those people who work in the city’s critical infrastructure enterprises.
Mr. Klitschko said that this was “no time to be frivolous.” As the country’s intensive care units and hospitals feel the strain of the surging numbers, Mr. Klitschko urged people throughout the capital to take the issue seriously. “Today, our main task is to preserve the health and life of Kyiv residents, to help our doctors cope with this wave,” he said. “There is no other choice, otherwise the medical system would not be able to cope with a further rise in the number of patients, otherwise there will be even more deaths.”
In just one example of how tragic the situation has become for some in Ukraine, on April 8 the Ukrainian Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported that a couple with 13 children, 11 of whom are under age 18, both died of COVID-19 only days apart.
According to the news service, the family moved to Kyiv in 2014 after Russia-backed separatists seized their home city of Makiyivka in eastern Ukraine.
The country has faced numerous challenges in its fight to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The Ukrainian government has also done little to implement a robust contact tracking and tracing program, the lockdowns were implemented too late and without stringent enforcement, and there are now new, more contagious variants of the virus spreading throughout the country. Moreover, a vaccine has only recently become available to Ukrainians, although many seem distrustful and unwilling to take a vaccine even when it becomes available to them.
According to a report last week from the Atlantic Council, in the first quarter of 2021, “a mere 232,000 Ukrainians received a first dose of the Covid vaccine. In comparison, the African nation of Rwanda, with less than one-third of Ukraine’s population, has already given first doses to 349,000 citizens. Even rural Mongolia, with a population the size of Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk Oblast (3.3 million) has already provided first dose vaccinations to 290,00 people.”
If Ukraine hopes to win the fight against the coronavirus, Ukrainians will need to accept being vaccinated. We are hopeful that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s announcement on April 6 that Ukraine has secured 10 million vaccines from Pfizer will help the situation, but we urge all Ukrainians in the diaspora to contact any family, friends and associates in Ukraine and urge them to take a vaccine, any vaccine, when it becomes available to them.