Ukrainians face fines for refusing to mask up

By: AFP      Published: 07:10 PM, 6 Nov, 2020
Ukrainians face fines for refusing to mask up

Ukraine on Friday imposed fines on people who refuse to wear face masks in public places as one of Europe's poorest countries witnesses a surge in coronavirus infections.

Ukrainian parliament voted to punish those in public spaces and using transport unmasked with fines ranging from 170 to 255 hryvnias ($6 to $9).

On Thursday, the ex-Soviet country of 40 million people reported a record 9,850 new coronavirus infections.

Officials have repeatedly criticised the general public for ignoring social distancing rules and other anti-virus restrictions, threatening to reintroduce a lockdown that was lifted in June.

Health Minister Maksym Stepanov warned this week that the country with an ageing public health system was "on the brink of disaster," with hospital beds and staff in short supply.  

He said the ministry was considering whether to introduce a partial lockdown on weekends, with only essential businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies and public transport allowed to remain open.

But on Friday, Prime Minister Denys Shmygal appeared to downplay the possibility of the partial lockdown, saying it was just one potential measure.

He said earlier this week Ukraine was not planning to introduce a nationwide lockdown, speaking in favour of targeted measures in the most affected areas.

Since the start of the pandemic Ukrainian officials have reported more than 440,000 coronavirus cases and 8,125 deaths across the country.