The Ukrainian Ministry of Health said Ukraine and Pakistan are on the next steps in the degree of spread of coronavirus. In Pakistan, this figure is 38.5 people per 100 thousand people, in Ukraine – 37. At the request of my fellow journalists from Voice of Sindh, I will tell you how we had to choose between the health of the nation and the country’s economy.
Option 1. When health is more important
Frightened by the experience of Italy, where many Ukrainian labour migrants work, at first in Ukraine they introduced very tough measures. You can’t walk a dog with more than one person, you cannot play sports on sports grounds, you cannot play with children in playgrounds. Almost the all businesses were forced to stop working, with the exception of grocery stores, pharmacies, pet stores, and banks. Those who continued to work had to provide customers or employees with disinfectant, masks, gloves, safety glasses, and a 10 square meter space for each visitor.
Strict measures at first caused fear and panic. Many who follow quarantine of their own free will, and not because of government ban. But, something went wrong.
The writer Saltykov-Shchedrin once said, that the rigor of Russian laws is mitigated by the non-binding nature of their implementation. The same happened with quarantine in Ukraine. After the first month and a half, people were tired of quarantine, fear, and bad news.
The financial pillow of Ukrainian small and medium-sized businesses quickly dried up. Everyone, from airlines to event organizers, was looking for a way to adapt, but not everyone found it.
The recognition of one of the country’s chief physicians that some bans were introduced not because of an epidemiological need, but to intimidate the population contributed to its role.
The authorities needed to either tighten control or loosen quarantine. This time they chose the second.
Option 2. When the economy is more important
However, with the announcement of the mitigation, both the population and the business perceived it as the complete abolition of quarantine. Crowds of people tumbled into restaurants and bars that opened, queued up at the box office of the famous brands in the shopping centers, and the business, which had recently followed the rules, began to ignore masks and distance.
The consequences were not long in coming. In the worst days since the beginning of the pandemic, the number of cases did not exceed 300 people a day (the population of Ukraine is about 37 million). But after loosening quarantine almost every morning, we learn about a new anti-record 600 new cases. 700.800.
But now these numbers do not seem to scary. We still do not have immunity to coronavirus, but we have already immunity to news about it.
The other day, authorities announced a tightening of quarantine. Making people and businesses quarantine a second time will be much more difficult.
If at the beginning of quarantine many chose health, now the pendulum has swung towards saving the business and the economy. Will the pendulum hold in this position?
Option 3. From extremes to compromise
However, both of these extremes carry equally high risks. We will have to find a compromise and new knowledge about coronavirus may help.
One of the global trends during the pandemic has been the decline in confidence of the World Health Organization. Initially, the WHO recommended the implementation of rather stringent measures, but then revised the recommendations several times. Many took this as an occasion to blame the WHO as conspiracy. In my opinion, we should have a more tolerant attitude.
At the beginning of the year, coronavirus was an “unknown.” Now this is at least a “known unknown.” The more we know about coronavirus, the more adequately we can respond to it. If, new facts make it possible to mitigate preventive measures, a mature reaction will welcome this, and not blame the WHO. Indeed, in the final analysis, it is new knowledge that will help us to find a compromise between health and the economy.