KIEV – National guards have been deployed to protect 72 evacuees from the Chinese city of Wuhan after the group was attacked in Ukraine Thursday night when being transferred on a bus to a medical center, Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk announced on Friday.
The violent incident occurred on Thursday night when a group that had travelled from a coronavirus struck region in China was being taken to the Novi Sanzhary center in the Poltava region, central Ukraine, from an airport in Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine.
The bus, which was carrying 45 Ukrainians and 27 foreign nationals primarily from Latin America, was attacked by dozens of people who hurled objects at the vehicle and erected barricades to try and prevent the bus from continuing its journey towards the medical center.
Novi Sanzhary authorities told reporters 300 national guards had been deployed to ensure the safety of the evacuees.
“Nine policemen and a civilian required medical attention,” Igor Klimenko, head of the Ukraine National Police, said in a statement posted on the website of the Ministry of Interior.
In a move to show solidarity and reassure the residents of Novi Sanzhary, Health Minister Zoryana Skaletska said she would join the quarantine of Wuhan evacuees.
“I will spend the next 14 days with them in the same facilities, under the same conditions. I hope that my presence will calm the people of Novi Sanzhary and other places in the country,” Skaletska shared on Facebook.
The prime minister, who visited the region alongside Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov in bid to defuse the violence and concerns that have spread, assured Ukrainians that all the evacuees had undergone medical checks and that none of them had presented symptoms of COVID-19.
“We have talked to the people who are in the medical center. Here they have everything they need.
“The government is total control of the situation,” Honcharuk said.
Three doctors were travelling with the 72 evacuees on a flight from Wuhan, the city where the deadly virus first broke out.
The novel coronavirus and has caused more than 2,140 deaths in China.
The arrival of the evacuees has raised fears in Ukraine that coronavirus will spread across the country, a fear that was fueled by a fake statement from the Health Ministry that claimed there were five cases of COVID-19 in the eastern European country.
The false statement was disseminated by email to all ministry contacts and was sent by someone outside the country, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has said.