Ukraine completes tough COVID lockdown with optimistic expectations

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KYIV (Reuters) - Ukraine reopens schools, restaurants and gyms on Monday, ending a tough lockdown introduced on Jan. 8 to prevent a new wave of coronavirus infections, Ukrainian authorities said.

The number of new cases of coronavirus infection in Ukraine has significantly decreased from 6,000 to 9,000 cases a day at the beginning of January to 2,516 new cases on January 25, the fewest since early September.

“Such statistics, which indicate the stabilisation of the situation, the improvement of the situation could be obtained only thanks to you, Ukrainians,” health minister Maksym Stepanov told a televised briefing.

“We believe that this (lockdown) has significantly improved the situation now and in the future,” he said.

He said Ukraine, which has registered around 1.2 million cases of coronavirus with 21,924 deaths, would retain some restrictions, mainly related to the work of the service sector, restaurants and transport.

Stepanov said the ministry would analyse the results of the lockdown this week and would then like to return to a system of local restrictions responding to conditions in a particular city or region.

Ukrainian officials earlier this month said the health ministry expected it would not have to introduce any further strict measures in the future.

Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Kirsten Donovan