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Coronavirus in Chernivtsi: What We Know, How to Protect Yourself, And Is Ukraine Prepared
3 March, 2020
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The disinfection of public transport in Lviv due to the risk of infectious coronavirus. The first registered coronavirus case in Ukraine is in the western city of Chernivtsi, who has been hospitalized. Lviv, Ukraine, March 3, 2020. EPA-EFE / MYKOLA TYS

Ukraine has registered its first case of the COVID-19 disease, popularly known as the coronavirus. The infected is a resident of the western Ukrainian city of Chernivtsi who had recently returned from Italy with his wife – Italy being the European epicenter of the epidemic. His wife does not present coronavirus symptoms. 

Over 90,000 cases have been registered globally, and over 3,000 deaths have been noted as being caused by the coronavirus. Italy has over 2,000 registered cases.

Hromadske looked into what Ukraine’s done to prepare itself, how hospitals work, and what can be done to defend yourself and those close to you from the virus.

What We Know About the Coronavirus in Chernivtsi

On the morning of March 3, the head sanitary doctor in Ukraine and deputy health minister – Viktor Lyashko – revealed the first confirmed coronavirus case in Ukraine. The infected patient, a resident of the western Ukrainian city of Chernivtsi, returned with his wife to Ukraine from Italy via car on February 26, and had decided to isolate himself and his wife for a few days.

READ MORE: Ukraine Reports First Coronavirus Case

The man’s temperature was normal while crossing the border into Ukraine, but two days later, on February 28, he came down with a fever and a sore throat. He contacted his family doctor following these symptoms. The next day, he was hospitalized by a specialized team which was assembled specifically to transport those with coronavirus symptoms. The coronavirus test confirmed the diagnosis on March 2.

His wife so far has no symptoms of the coronavirus. The border guards he interacted with at the border crossing in western Ukraine, had facemasks and gloves on. Doctors are at the current moment trying to establish who the patient could have been in contact with, but they are already noting that this circle was not large. This patient is currently the only person in Ukraine hospitalized for the coronavirus.

A hotline has been established in Chernivtsi for residents who believe that they have coronavirus symptoms. 

Simultaneously, city authorities have begun a disinfection program for public transport, while trolleybus conducts have been given gauze dressings. Additionally, local schools are being checked to ensure that they’re following sanitary norms and the advice of the Red Cross. A local clinical hospital, and a military hospital, are both ready to receive coronavirus patients.

Is Ukraine Ready for an Epidemic?

Zoryana Skaletska, the Minister of Health, has stated that the Ukrainian medical system is ready to fight the coronavirus. At the moment, infectious disease wards have established 2,000 isolation rooms throughout the country, and has the capacity to treat additional 12,000 patients in non-isolated wards. 2,000 infectious disease specialists are ready to get to work, and a further 5,000 specially trained medical personnel have been prepared.

The Ministry of Health has sent instructions for doctors, epidemiologists, and virologists to regional hospitals and laboratories. The instructions recommend quickly informing Ministry of Health labs if coronavirus infections are suspected, and to closely follow special instructions during transport and transfer of biological material, as well as to follow World Health Organization suggestions during treatment.

At the moment, Ukraine has the ability to test around 1,000 people for the coronavirus. Ukraine can also transfer biological samples to international laboratories – six of which are in Europe.

The Cabinet of Ministers, on February 3, had implemented a heightened-awareness regime in case of an epidemic in the country. People who had spent time in the Wubei province in China (the epicenter of the disease) must undergo two weeks of quarantine before being released.

READ MORE: Ukraine Says It Has a Plan to Prevent Entry of Coronavirus

Ukrainian airports and border checkpoints continue to take the temperature of new arrivals for coronavirus symptoms, though the World Health Organization has stated that checking temperature does not help slow the spread of the coronavirus, as travelers can not present symptoms during the early stages of the disease, or while the virus is in an incubatory period.

From February 29, Ukrainian hospitals have begun training programs in which medics, first responders, police, and local authorities take part. Officials in Kyiv and Lutsk have already completely trainings, while other cities will undergo training at a later time,

The Center for Public Health, together with the WHO, have also held two-week training sessions for epidemiologists and virologists. There, doctors learned how to react to messages about coronavirus cases, how to act in case they’re infected, as well as how to conduct coronavirus tests and how to work with infected patients. 70 doctors from different regions of the country have completed this training.

READ MORE: Ukraine Health Minister to Join Wuhan Evacuees In Quarantine Following Local Protests

The center has also released an online course about the coronavirus and a separate course about first response aid in case of difficulties in coronavirus patients. The Ministry of Health also attended WHO trainings on these topics.

Educational training tasks in the Oleksandrov Clinical Hospital in case of the appearance of a sick coronavirus infected patient. Kyiv, February 28, 2020. Photo: EPA-EFE / STEPAN FRANKO

How to Protect Yourself

On a special government-created website, you can now read about the nature of the coronavirus and the course of the disease. And to protect yourself from coronavirus disease, you should follow the advice of WHO and, above all, follow the personal hygiene rules:

  • wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-containing antiseptic solution – viruses outside the human body stop multiplying and become vulnerable to chemicals;

  • keep a distance of approximately 1 meter from the interlocutors with signs of the disease – small droplets of saliva and sputum which may contain the virus and which you can inhale, fly out of the cough.

READ MORE: What Life Amid Coronavirus Outbreak is Like, According to These Ukrainians

  • try not to touch your eyes, lips, and nose with your hands – the virus can penetrate through the mucous membranes;

  • if you notice symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath), be sure to consult a hospital – this may be just a cold, but it is better to check;

When traveling, check the risk of transmission of the virus in a particular country and follow the recommendations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine.

How to Protect Those Around You

The Health Ministry’s press office said in a comment to Hromadske that the ministry's recommendations were in line with those of WHO and that there were no grounds for announcing the epidemic in the country. In addition, the ministry advises employers to pay attention to the state of employees and to follow the rule that the sick must stay at home.

For the safety of those nearby:

  • you should advice a person to consult a doctor if you notice symptoms of SARS;

  • if you are ill, tell your colleagues and stay home;

  • cough, covering your mouth with a napkin or with a crook of your elbow and immediately throw the napkin into the bin with the lid and wash your hands; do not cover the mouth with the palm of your hand, because then you will greet people and touch the door handles, handrails and other objects in the public space;

  • regularly arrange wet cleaning with cleaning products at home and at work, pay special attention to door handles, handrails, countertops;

  • place alcohol or antiseptic solution or liquid soap in the workplace or study seat.

And most importantly, regardless of the situation, do not spread panic, but your own safety instructions and proven information.

READ MORE: Ukraine's Health Minister Talks Coronavirus and Measures Taken