KYIV (Reuters) – Several hundred people blocked traffic in the centre of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Wednesday in a protest against coronavirus restrictions and mandatory vaccinations, which the government introduced to curb new infections.
Ukraine has registered record high rates of new cases and deaths from the coronavirus in recent weeks, and its total number of infections almost reaching 3 million with 69,447 deaths.
Vaccines have become mandatory for some state workers, and in “red” zone areas including Kyiv, only vaccinated people or those with negative COVID test results are allowed into restaurants, gyms and on public transport.
Protesters, many of them young people, held up posters with messages such as “Say no to COVID passports”, “Protect our children” and “Say no to COVID genocide”.
Ukraine lagged behind other European countries in obtaining coronavirus vaccines this year and is now struggling to persuade a sceptical public to take them.
“Such rallies of people that we see today, with calls not to get vaccinated, in my opinion, make a mockery of our doctors and families, who, unfortunately, have lost their relatives due to the coronavirus,” Ukrainian health minister Viktor Lyashko told a televised news conference.
“Trust me, this anti-vaccination spirit quickly disappears in intensive care units, and fake certificates don’t work,” he said.
Parliament on Tuesday criminalised the use and manufacture of bogus COVID-19 vaccine certificates, setting out a prison term of up to three years or a fine of about $6,460 for offenders.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, Natalia Zinets, Sergiy Karazy; Editing by Robert Birsel)