Ukraine Covid-19 Outbreak Near ‘Catastrophic’ Level

Ukraine is at the limit of its capacity to treat coronavirus patients.

“The situation is quickly changing from difficult to catastrophic,” Health Minister Maksym Stepanov told lawmakers in Kyiv this week. “It is impossible to pass the next wave lightly. No matter how quickly we add hospital beds, the coronavirus spreads faster.”

Ukraine reported 9,524 new cases on Wednesday, along with 199 new deaths. That breached the benchmark of 9,000 daily infections for the first time, the level that Unicef previously estimated would stretch the country’s hospital capacity to the maximum.

“The number of available beds for coronavirus patients is not enough at the moment,” Lotta Sylwander, the local representative of the UN agency that focuses on protecting children and is one of the world’s largest vaccine providers, said in an interview last week.

Ukrainian authorities failed to embrace testing as a key method of fighting the pandemic and because of “that lack of understanding there wasn’t a big political push to increase testing capacity.”

The government boosted the number hospital beds designated for Covid patients to 47,000 in the country of about 40 million. Testing is at about 50,000 per day, the health minister said.

‘Little Preparation’

Despite the ramp-up, Ukraine’s test-and-trace system remains the weakest in Europe, according to Pavlo Kovtonyuk, head of the health-care economics department at the Kyiv School of Economics.

“There was very little preparation to set up hospitals, equipment and to provide training for medical personnel ahead of the autumn wave,” he said, adding that slow test processing makes it difficult to trace contacts and to properly isolate infected people.

The government assigned about 13% of its 64.7 billion-hryvnia ($2.3 billion) coronavirus fund to the Health Ministry for hospital equipment, testing and ventilators. More than four times as much was redirected for road construction and maintenance, according to Finance Ministry data.

Part of the reason is that a more successful virus defense in the spring created a false sense of security, which is now proving difficult to reverse, according to Kovotnyuk.

“The government set aside enough money and in time to deal with a new wave,” he said. “However the money was not used for its due purpose because of the lack of clear priorities and because of a delusion that the situation in Ukraine is stable. Add coronavirus fatigue and it is easy to predict a very difficult winter ahead.”

Ukraine has no plans to impose lockdown but will act if the situation deteriorates, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Wednesday.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.