Ukraine’s health minister has joined evacuees from coronavirus-hit China in quarantine to show solidarity in the aftermath of violent protests outside a medical facility.
Protesters in the central Poltava region on Thursday briefly blocked the road outside the health spa and hurled stones at buses carrying evacuees. Riot police and an armored vehicle were deployed let the buses reach the resort in the village of Novi Sanzhary at the end of an hours-long standoff.
45 Ukrainian nationals and 27 foreigners were flown into Ukraine on Thursday from Wuhan and are expected to stay in quarantine for 14 days.
Ukrainian Health Minister Zoryana Skaletska said late last night that she would join the evacuees in quarantine to stay with them “in the same building, in the same conditions” in an attempt to assuage fears of contagion.
“I hope that my presence there will calm those in Novi Sanzhary and in the rest of the country,” she said in a Facebook post.
The minister said she was stunned by the aggression shown by locals and urged for support for the evacuees who have agreed to lock themselves up “for the sake of safety for all of us.”
The minister also publicly apologised to her daughter for missing her 10th birthday on Friday.
Ukrainian officials say that panic was triggered by a hoax email claiming that some of the evacuees had been diagnosed with coronavirus.
Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk on Friday described the unrest in Novi Sanzhary as the result of an “information war against our country, both from the inside and the outside.”
The Health Ministry even put out a warning about fake news reports on Thursday, saying that rumors of five confirmed coronavirus cases in Ukraine were untrue.
The Ukrainian intelligence agency SBU said that it suspects foreign hackers to be behind the mass email sent on behalf of the Health Ministry to its entire mailing list. Authorities are now examining the ministry’s IT systems to track down the source of the suspected hacking attack.
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