We recently received an update from the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine, describing some of the efforts to battle COVID-19 in Ukraine.
To prevent the spread of the virus, the Ukrainian government has introduced a 30-day emergency situation regime in the entire territory of Ukraine until 24 April 2020. The Cabinet Ministers of Ukraine simplified the procurement of goods and services necessary to fight coronavirus. Ministry of Health of Ukraine is taking steps to increase the number of health workers who will help patients with COVID-19.
Deputy Minister of Health, Chief State Sanitary Doctor of Ukraine, Viktor Liashko, said at a briefing on 27 March: “Now much in the development of the situation depends on every Ukrainian citizen. In order to preserve health of each particular person and prevent the mass spread of COVID-19 infectious disease throughout the country, everyone must comply with quarantine rules and use preventive measures.”
According to some experts the outbreak of the pandemic in Ukraine is expected in two weeks and most likely Ukrainian health system will not be able to cope adequately with the massive outbreak of the disease. For this reason, business, voluntary movement and Churches are being mobilized in Ukraine alongside all the government actions in order to help mitigate the negative consequences of the pandemic.
On 26 March 2020, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, His Beatitude Sviatoslav, met with the Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal to discuss the situation related to the quarantine rules. His Beatitude Sviatoslav informed the Head of the Government on the measures already taken in this situation and how the Church is going to celebrate Holy Week and Easter period in restrictive measures.
Moreover, the head of the UGCC informed the head of the government about the creation of anti-crisis coordination center to help coordinate Church’s efforts with those of State authorities on national and local levels. As it was stated earlier, the head of the UGCC repeated his claim made on 22 March: “If necessary, the whole church space will become hospitals, where we will save human lives.”
At the end of the meeting, His Beatitude Sviatoslav stressed that it is important for the religious community, especially during this difficult time, to have constant communication and partnership with state institutions.
Church officials also announced they stand ready to convert any church facilities, including pastoral centers and educational institutions, into hospitals; the church is also prepared to offer rooms for people who are returning from abroad and need a place to be quarantined.
In Ternopil, the cathedral is being used as a place to collect and distribute medical supplies. And in Lviv, the Sheptytsky Hospital has signed an agreement with the mayor to provide assistance to people diagnosed with coronavirus.
Of course, this isn’t the first time the church in Ukraine has faced daunting challenges and seen its people rise to the occasion. You can read about the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine — and the dramatic changes the country has undergone over the last three decades — in An Ancient Church, A New Ukraine in the Spring 2020 edition of ONE.