THE FIRST WEEK OF QUARANTINE ON THE CONTACT LINE WITH ORDLO: THE MAIN TENDENCIES AND CHARACTERISTICS
In accordance with the order of the Commander of the Joint Forces No.207 dated from March 15, 2020, in order to protect the life and health of citizens during the epidemic of acute respiratory disease COVID-19 caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, for the period from March 16 till April 3, 2020, restrictions were placed on movement through the EECP in Donbas.
Ministry for Reintegration is in continuous cooperation with Luhansk and Donetsk Regional State Administrations, JFO Command and the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine, non-governmental and human rights organizations, provided support for the quarantine implementation, promptly responding to the issues that arose.
“Thanks to our military, border guards, as well as non-governmental organizations that deal with these issues, it was possible to establish effective work, because life circumstances were different. Our first priority was to take care of the people. Decisions were taken very quickly, thanks to this the situation was always under control,” noted Oleksii Reznikov, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Reintegration of TOT.
Following the results of the first week of quarantine, the following key points should be noted.
The logic of actions of the Ukrainian authorities
According to the recommendations of doctors, the most effective way to ensure the safety of citizens during the epidemic is to reduce the number of movements and contacts.
Therefore, temporary restrictions have been imposed on crossing the contact line, and cases of a humanitarian nature have been foreseen, leaving people the possibility to cross the EECP in the event of an urgent need under a separate decision of the JFO Commander.
On the initiative of the Ministry for Reintegration, it was proposed to include in the list of humanitarian circumstances that provide grounds for the crossing such as following:
the need to respect the principle of family unity;
cases of death or serious illness of close relatives;
severe or chronic diseases that require urgent medical intervention;
different ways of confirming actual residence in the Government controlled or temporarily occupied territory, etc.
This mechanism has proven to be effective. For example, on March 20-22, approximately 100 persons crossed the contact line in Donbas daily under a separate decision of the JFO Commander.
At the same time, amendments were made to the regulations, eliminated the need for IDPs to move without an emergency. First and foremost - for elderly persons, who belong to the main risk group of COVID-19 disease.
In particular, during the quarantine period, the requirement to confirm their actual presence in the Government controlled territory within 60 days was abolished. People will retain their IDP status, pensions and social benefits will be granted and no additional actions are required from citizens.
“Restriction of movement is a critical, forced and temporary measure. When the danger is over, it will be immediately eliminated. The funds will still be fully accrued,” said Oleksii Reznikov.
On the eve of the quarantine introduction, the flow of people across the contact line has increased significantly. In particular, on March 13, 53.6 thousand persons and 5.8 thousand vehicles crossed the EECP. On March 14, there were already 61.5 thousand persons and 6.4 thousand vehicles. The largest number of persons crossed the EECP “Stanitsa Luhanska” - 17.5 thousand persons. On March 15, the flow amounted to 55 thousand persons per day. Meanwhile, there were 30-34 thousand crossings daily in the period from January till February 2020.
Citizens, permanently residing in TOT, predicting the imposition of restrictions during quarantine, had more trips to Government controlled areas for food, medicine, as well as to obtain pensions and social benefits.
Since the imposition of the restrictions, the number of daily EECP crossings in Donbas has been decreasing rapidly during March 16-19.
If on March 16, 9.2 thousand persons and 990 vehicles crossed the contact line, then on March 19 - only 1.1 thousand persons and 147 vehicles did so. That is, the difference in comparison with the peak load on March 14, that was 56 times!
People have calmed down, because they have seen that the Ukrainian government is acting adequately to the situation, and there is a clear mechanism to cross in need, they will not be left without assistance. The vast majority of citizens have moved to their place of permanent residence during this time.
However, on March 20, the number of crossings increased to 3.1 thousand due to the increase in EECP in Donetsk Oblast. This happened as a result of the decision of the occupation administration of ORDO to completely close EECP on its part, starting from 00:00 on March 21. People were afraid that everything would be blocked for an indefinite time.
On March 21, the number of crossings decreased to 247, with more than 151 carried out through the EECP “Stanitsa Luhanska” in Luhansk Oblast. On the Donetsk section of the contact line the movement was carried out by the decision of the JFO Commander.
On March 22, the number of crossings decreased to 92 persons (3 more persons allowed by the decision of the JFO Commander were returned by the militants).
From 00:00 on March 23, the crossing of the EECP, for its part, was completely blocked by the occupation administration of ORLO.
Thus, during the week after the introduction of quarantine measures the flow across the contact line was gradually decreasing and as of the morning on March 23 it was de facto blocked as a result of actions of the terrorist administrations of the Russian Federation.
At the same time, the Ukrainian side is ready to continue to provide crossings for representatives of the OSCE, the United Nations and the ICRC, as well as for citizens in cases of extreme necessity for humanitarian reasons.
Actions of the Occupation Administrations of ORDLO
As already noted, the occupation administrations of ORDLO have completely closed EECP from their side: in Donetsk Oblast - from March 21, in Luhansk Oblast - from March 23. And the explanation of these steps was quite contradictory.
They motivated their decisions by the desire to “protect” the free part of Ukraine from the coronavirus penetration. At the same time, the section of the Russian-Ukrainian border, temporarily controlled by the occupation forces, remains open for crossing.
Though in the Russian Federation at the time of the blocking of the contact line from ORDLO there were 7 times more officially confirmed cases of coronavirus than in Ukraine. A case of infection has also been confirmed in the occupied Crimea.
“Publicly, the ORDLO occupation administrations claim that there are no cases of infection in the temporarily occupied territories. They have not even closed the schools until recently. But, according to the available data, the situation there is complicated. And so much so that the workers of the local occupation bodies began to take their families to Russia en masse and did not plan to return. The head of the so-called "DPR" was even forced to ban them from leaving the territory of ORDLO. The question is why are you banning it, if everything is so good?" Deputy Prime Minister Oleksii Reznikov commented on the situation.
Analysis of social media reports shows that ORDLO residents are scared and condemn the actions of the leaders of the pseudo-republic, who put children and the elderly persons in danger for the sake of creating a propaganda picture that would benefit Russian curators.
“Of course, we are concerned about this. If we see that the occupying authorities in ORDLO and Crimea are not fulfilling their obligations to protect the population during the epidemic, we will draw the international community's attention to this and act on the basis of available resources. After all, there are our citizens there too,” stressed Reznikov.
Prospects for the second week of quarantine
As of 07:00 on March 23, according to Luhansk Regional State Administration, not a single case of coronavirus has been registered in the territory of free Luhansk Oblast. One person was tested for the virus, but the tests showed no infection. Medical institutions of Oblast have prepared 195 beds for hospitalization of persons suspected of infection with coronavirus, in total there are 64 devices for artificial ventilation of lungs.
At the same time, 1 case of coronavirus infection was registered in Donetsk Oblast. As a result, on the territory of Oblast by the decision of the regional commission of TESES on March 21, the regime of emergency situation was introduced. State and law enforcement agencies have been transferred to a reinforced regime, a number of additional restrictions on the work of food and non-food markets have been introduced.
Donetsk Regional State Administration has allocated funds to purchase an amplifier for coronavirus diagnostics, the region has received 980 thousand protective masks from the state reserve. Medical workers deploy additional beds and infectious boxes in case the number of patients increases.
“Now the Ministry for Reintegration is making efforts to obtain additional government funding, international assistance and increase the capacity of medical institutions in Donetsk, Luhansk and Kherson Oblasts. First of all, we should take care of people in the Government controlled territories,” noted Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration Oleksii Reznikov.
Given the dynamics of diagnosis of new cases, there is a reason to expect intensification of quarantine measures within a week.
The Ministry for Reintegration will promptly inform about any changes.