02/25/2020, 19.45
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Fear and protests over evacuees spark appeal by Church and Epiphanius

by Vladimir Rozanskij

People protested against the arrival in Poltava region of 73 evacuees from China, including 45 Ukrainians as well as citizens of Norway, Israel, Belarus, Spain, Montenegro, Kazakhstan, Argentina, Costa Rica, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Panama and other countries. Protesters blocked roads and threw stones at buses carrying the evacuees. The Church urged the faithful to not let “fear of disease cloud our mind and our conscience, our very humanity.”

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Last week, seven buses with Ukrainians and citizens of other countries, evacuated from China following the coronavirus outbreak, were the object of a protest that included stone throwing. Reacting to the incident, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, led by Metropolitan Epiphanius of Kyiv and All Ukraine, said that “fear of disease” should not “cloud our mind and our conscience, our very humanity.”

The evacuees and medical support staff were travelling to a health spa run by the National Guard near the village of Novi Sanzhary, Poltava region, where they are scheduled to spend 14 days under quarantine. As the buses made their way to the health facility, they became the target of protest by local residents, who threw stones, shattering some windows.

A correspondent for Nastoyashee Vremya (Current Times) reported that last Thursday evening (20 February), the police cleared the streets and arrested four people. Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk travelled to the village and issued a local state of emergency.

Protesters complained that the local medical facility is not equipped to isolate completely infected people. For this reason, they tried to block the main access roads to the area, clashing repeatedly with law enforcement.

Poltava Governor Oleh Syniehubov also came to the village to speak to local residents and officials. On Facebook, he made an appeal. “Anyone could find themselves in the situation of these people, who are returning home. They are someone's children, parents, relatives, and they have been checked by Chinese and Ukrainian doctors. None of them has shown any symptoms of this serious respiratory infection.”

The arrival of the Wuhan evacuees had been reported the day before (19 February). The health facility run by Ukraine’s National Guard received 73 patients, 45 from the Ukraine, plus citizens of Norway, Israel, Belarus, Spain, Montenegro, Kazakhstan, Argentina, Costa Rica, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Panama and other countries.

Members of the Poltava Regional Council asked President Volodymyr Zelensky to move these people to another facility, claiming that the one selected could not provide the right treatment for patients with this kind of viral infection.

In their statement, they said: “We understand that there must be a centre dedicated to coronavirus patients, and to those who have come into contact with those infected, but such  centre does not exist in our region.”

Previously, the Interior Ministry had announced that four buildings in the health facility had been readied for quarantined people, with a double cordon sanitaire around it for "defence, protection and disinfection”. The outer ring of the area is monitored by CCTV and is patrolled by police and National Guard units on foot and vehicles.

President Zelenskyj promised that the health centre in Novi Sanzhary “would be the most monitored spot in the country" and that "everything possible and impossible has been done" to prevent the spread of coronavirus in Ukraine. Like in Russia, no one from China can enter the country, except on dedicated charter flights.

On Facebook, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine called for a "show of compassion" for fellow citizens evacuated from China. The Church, led by Metropolitan Epiphanius (Dumenko), “notes with regret the spread of aggressive attitudes in connection with the return of some of our fellow Ukrainians. . . . Fear and isolation lead to the inability of mutual acceptance.”

“The Church cannot speak to the medical aspects of the question, which remain the responsibility of specialists and are regulated by the state. But we are required to highlight the moral significance of this challenge to our common life, to which our society must give an adequate response.”

The post ends appealing “to compassion and charity towards one's neighbor” as “ the foundation of divine law. We must not let fear of disease cloud our mind and our conscience, our very humanity.”

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