Novi Sanzhary (Ukraine): Ukraine’s effort to quarantine more than 70 people evacuated from China over the new virus outbreak plunged into chaos Thursday as local residents opposing the move hurled stones at the evacuees and engaged in violent clashes with police.
Officials deplored the violence and Ukraine’s health minister pledged to share evacuees’ quarantine for two weeks in a bid to reassure protesters who fear they’ll be infected.
Buses carrying evacuees were finally able to reach the designated place of quarantine after hours of clashes. The masked evacuees, exhausted by the long journey, were peeking through bus windows as they drove slowly under a heavy police escort. Stones shattered a window in one of the buses, but the evacuees appeared unhurt.
Since the early morning, several hundred residents of the village of Novi Sanzhary in Ukraine’s central Poltava region had cut the road to a sanitarium intended to host the evacuees, fearing they could become infected.
Demonstrators, some of whom appeared drunk, put up road blocks, burned tyres and clashed with riot police who moved to clear access. One protester tried to ram police lines with his car. Nine police and one civilian were hospitalized due to injuries, the regional police said in a statement.
More than 10 protesters were detained, and Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov personally visited the site of the protests to try to calm the crowd down. He urged the protesters ‘not to fall for provocations and be understanding of the necessity for these temporary measures’.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy weighed in and said that the protests showed ‘not the best side of our character’. He tried to reassure people that the quarantined evacuees wouldn’t pose any danger to local residents.
In a statement published on his Facebook page, Zelenskiy said the people evacuated from China are healthy and will live in a closed medical centre run by the National Guard in the village as a precaution. “In the next two weeks it will probably be the most guarded facility in the country,” Zelenskiy said.
Health Minister Zoryana Skaletska said she would join the evacuees in quarantine for two weeks to help assuage villagers’ concerns. She urged residents to show sympathy and support for the evacuees and emphasized that the quarantine facility is in full conformity with international standards.
“I was shocked by panic, rejection, negative feelings and aggression,” she said. “It was even a greater shock for the people who were evacuated from China,” added the minister.