Ukraine's COVID-19 cases jump, capital Kyiv imposes tough restrictions

KYIV (Reuters) - New coronavirus infections spiked to their highest level in Ukraine since November on Thursday, prompting the capital Kyiv to impose a tight lockdown for three weeks starting on Saturday.

FILE PHOTO: A passenger wearing a protective face mask is seen on a bus amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in central Kyiv, Ukraine January 27, 2021. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

Kyiv’s lockdown echoes similar measures to be introduced by Lviv, the largest city in the west of the country, on Friday including closures of cafes, restaurants, non-food stores and a ban on public events.

“We need to gain time and do everything to prevent the collapse of the medical system,” Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.

Theatres and shopping centres will be closed, spectators banned from sporting events, cafes and restaurants limited to providing takeaway food, schools will begin remote learning and all state employees will work from home, Klitschko said.

The former Soviet republic of 41 million people has been hit by a sharp increase in coronavirus cases in recent weeks that Prime Minister Denys Shmygal has said is the third wave of the pandemic.

Critics blame the pandemic surge in Ukraine on a lack of uniform nationwide lockdown measures and patchy compliance with social distancing and mask-wearing rules.

On Wednesday, Ukraine registered a record new daily high of 289 coronavirus-related deaths, and the death toll was 267 on Thursday, Health Minister Maksym Stepanov said on Facebook.

Ukraine has recorded a total of 29,253 deaths from the respiratory pandemic as of Thursday and the total number of infections since the pandemic began a year ago crossed the 1.5 million mark, Stepanov said.

He said the number of Ukrainians hospitalised for COVID-19 remained high with 4,376 new admissions in the past 24 hours, though down from a record 4,887 the day before.

With the surge in new infections and deaths, the prime minister has urged regional authorities to impose stronger restrictions on movement to contain the disease.

Reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Natalia Zinets; Editing by Mark Heinrich