Covid-19 endangers the vital functions of the Ukrainian state

Covid-19’s insidious nature appears in many ways – it indiscriminately hits rich and poor, ordinary and powerful, jobless and influential, workers and Presidents.

No one can have 100% protection and 100% life “insurance” from it. No one can corrupt it or sign a “non-aggression” agreement with it. 

Last week Covid -19 peaked in hitting 11,000 Ukrainians daily, top state managers among them, including Ukrainian President V. Zelensky, Head of Ukrainian Parliament /Verkhovna Rada D. Razumkov, Vice Prime Minister A. Reznikov, minister of Finance and Defence minister. Ukrainian President’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak who seems to play a more influential role in Ukraine’s state than just managing the President’s office staff, has been hospitalized at Feofania hospital after testing positive on Covid-19 on November 9, 2020. Good news though- according to the president’s spokeswoman J. Mendel, both Zelensky and Yermak remain active and experience only mild symptoms of the disease. 

Prime minister D. Shmigal is on duty, however, passed the COVID-19 test and is waiting for the results. Verkhovna Rada’s First Vice-Speaker R. Stefanchuk tested positive on November 12. Around 25 Parliament members are also currently contracted with coronavirus. 

Ukraine is not an exception in terms of Coronavirus spread among the state top managers (and overall Covid-19 statistics): in spring 2020 UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson went through this dangerous disease, however, the scale/coverage of infected top managers looks unprecedented and ominous.

What are the risks of such an unprecedented situation with simultaneous top state managers-including the President, Covid-19 contraction for internal and external state politics, National security, and the country’s daily life? 

According to the Ukrainian Constitution, 108 article, the President of Ukraine ceases his duties in case of an inability to act due to health conditions. In such a case president power goes to the Head of Verkhovna Rada. There will always be someone in a row of state authorities in power to manage the state, however, this may imply a slow decision-making process or a lower quality of the decision-making process which may impact various aspects of the country’s life such as economy, finance, defense, etc. 

According to the law of the Cabinet of Ministry, key government decisions are taken by voting Cabinet of Ministers members only. Deputy Ministers are not the Members of the Cabinet of Ministers and, therefore, they can not replace the Ministers in case of their absence to vote for significant, state vital decisions. So this represents a risk of the Government’s inability to make decisions. 

The constitutional court crisis is still not resolved: last week the Parliament failed to act on a crisis caused by the discredited Constitutional Court. This challenging Covid-19 situation is not contributing to prompt Constitutional Court crisis resolution as well. 

3 regions: Mykolaiv, Odesa, Kherson still missing the heads of the administrations, and these appointments may also be delayed due to the President’s contraction with Covid-19 and his hospitalization. 

Another risk is managing external politics in such turbulent times: Russia-Ukraine war is still on (despite the number of fire cases went down) and negotiations in Minsk of the Trilateral Group are not bringing any substantial results yet. Most likely the negotiation process will slow down as key stakeholders of the process may not be able to fully contribute to the process or discuss acceptable and winning options for Ukraine.

Video meeting of advisers to the leaders of the Normandy format countries on Nov. 13, announced by President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky is also under question due to the disease of key state people involved, V.Zelensky in particular. 

Hopefully, all top state managers stay active, productive, and efficient in performing their duties while contracted with Covid-19 and soon come back 100% healthy and recovered to the offices to propel Ukraine’s reforms and move the country forward to prosperity.   

But so far, the situation with Covid-19 looks almost critical and this is not only the strong nature of viruses to blame with such a radical and uncontrollable situation of Covid-19 spread in Ukraine. Preparedness to the second wave of virus (stronger than the first one as it goes to cold & flu season) was extremely low, if not to say, failed: special Covid-19 funds were redirected to other than medical health system readiness to face the 2nd wave, areas: 16,3 bln UAH were redirected to roads renovation. As a result, lack of O2 equipment vital for severe patients, insufficient quantity of beds in the hospitals, etc. endangers the lives of ordinary Ukrainians who have little chance to be hospitalized at the famous Feofania hospital which is mainly treating VIP persons.

As a protective measure to slow down the viruses spread, the government imposed the “weekend lockdown”. This caused an immediate reaction of small and medium businesses- restaurants, clubs, fitness clubs, etc. who claim they will not survive this measure. They demand state support to save the business, workplaces, and salaries. 

These upcoming weekends November 14-15th  it is recommended to be outside for a walk in the park, order food delivery, keep social distance, wear masks. Next weeks’ statistics will prove if this “weekend lockdown” measure was right or wrong.

EMPR, publication prepared by Liza Tuka


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