Week's balance: Cabinet extends quarantine until July 31, Parliament snubs government program, while international air traffic resumes
The government has extended adaptive quarantine until July 31, the Verkhovna Rada once refused to support the revised Cabinet program, depriving ministers of a year-long immunity from sacking, while Ukrainians are finally allowed to fly abroad – these are the main economic developments of the outgoing week.
The Cabinet of Ministers has further extended the adaptive quarantine, this time until July 31. Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal says the move was due to a steady growth in daily COVID-19 incidence.
On June 19, the country set another anti-record with 921 new confirmed cases reported within 24 hours. Since the quarantine weakened, the daily incidence rate in Ukraine has doubled!
The government believes the reason for such a sharp hike is that many Ukrainians perceived the recent relaxation of restrictions as quarantine lift as many returned to pre-corona lifestyle, gathering in large groups, ignoring social distancing and failing to wear face masks in public.
In this regard, the Cabinet vowed an updated approach to adaptive quarantine, which provides for tougher restrictions in certain regions.
Deputy Minister of Health Viktor Liashko has stated that in some regions, strict quarantine could be re-introduced from June 22. At the same time, he called on businesses not to neglect the recommendations issued by the Ministry of Health, and warned of harsher enforcement measures.
"Unfortunately, according to the State Food and Beverage Agency, every sixth business entity today is a violator. Without creating conditions for compliance with quarantine measures, their enforcement is impossible. The dynamics of the incidence directly depends on compliance with quarantine measures," he stressed, noting that prior to quarantine easing, businesses had promised to adhere to safety rules.
Lyashko added that businesses were invited to change their employees' work hours in order to reduce the load on metro and commute transport during rush hours to reduce crowding.
It seems that both businesses and citizens are yet to adapt to the new reality. Kyiv medical commission chief Oleh Helevey suggests quarantine could last at least until the end of the year.
At the same time, he recalled the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-1919, where the second wave was much more dangerous than the first one.
Government without resignation immunity
The Verkhovna Rada has rejected the Government's updated action program, thus leaving ministers without a 12-month immunity from dismissal.
In early June, parliamentarians had already returned the initial program for revision, comparing it with a "school essay." The government was therefore forced to finalize the document. The new version was "more serious", according to Parliament Chairman Dmytro Razumkov.
Among other things, the government declared plans to introduce a funded pension system from 2021, as well as stimulate the development of non-state pension funding. Also, the Cabinet intends to adapt Ukrainian legislation on private pension funds to that of the European Union.
In addition, the Cabinet announced plans to set a living wage at 40% of the average wage starting 2021. Also, the revised program provides for the development of international customs cooperation, including the development of electronic technologies and services for international trade.
Another item of the program was about cooperating with the supervisory boards of state banks to address the issue of non-performing loans.
However, none of these plans convinced Parliament to endorse the plan. On Thursday, deputies rejected the program as such.
At the same time, the prime minister says neither he nor the government as a whole "pursue immunity," and the updated program, even if it's not approved by MPs, will become a guide in government's work.
"We will keep fulfilling our goals. This is about support for Ukrainian manufacturers, support for small and medium-sized businesses, support for power engineers and farmers, as well as and many other steps that the public awaits. I have repeatedly said that our government is not interested in immunity – we are interested in the well-being of the country," PM said.
Shmyhal added that he saw no reason for the government to step down. He believes that the Rada's decision not to support the program was "political".
Ex-PM Oleksiy Honcharuk, who was dismissed in March, voiced a more critical assessment of the lack of support in the Rada for the incumbent Cabinet. He stated that the failure of the government program in parliament indicates that the Cabinet cannot keep working in its current form.
"This was obvious earlier, because personnel reshuffles in the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Finance, numerous dubious appointments and chaotic attacks on ProZorro, school tests, the National Bank, the failure for the fourth month to appoint ministers in key sectors (energy and education) is too much, even in conditions of personnel hunger," Honcharuk said.
Relaunch of international flights
On Monday, June 15, travelers rejoiced as an official ban on regular international flights was lifted.
The first such flight was performed by Belarusian Belavia. Their plane brought passengers from Minsk to Boryspil Airport. Kyiv Airport also opened its gates for other countries, having also accepted a Belavia liner.
However, it's too early to talk about full restoration of international air traffic, since there are significant restrictions related to the coronavirus.
According to the decision of the government, to cross the Ukrainian, foreigners must have an insurance policy that covers the coronavirus treatment and observation.
In addition, persons arriving from coronavirus hotbed destinations (countries where the incidence rate is over 40 per 100,000 population) are required to undergo a 14-day observation.
Similar rules await the Ukrainians set to fly abroad. According to Minister of Infrastructure Vladyslav Krykliy, from June 15, to travel to the UK, citizens will need to remain in quarantine for 14 days. Also from June 27 it will be possible to visit Tunisia, having passed testing upon arrival. At the same time, Ukrainians are allowed to travel to Albania and the USA without restrictions on border and also with no testing required. Turkey will also open up for Ukrainians from July 1 with no restrictions imposed.
More destinations for foreign travel could open by mid-summer. If the epidemic situation in Ukraine remains stable, air travel with Montenegro and Georgia could launch on July 1.
From July 1, the European Union could lift travel restrictions – but only for citizens of countries where the epidemic situation is similar or better than that in the EU. According to the Viktor Lyashko, the EU is considering the rate of 40 active cases per 100,000 population. Thus, Ukrainians should not rely on being able to travel to Europe anytime soon. The sharp increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in Ukraine in recent days has moved the country from the "green" to the "red" zone with over 40 cases per 100,000 population.
Next week, forecasters promise warm weather along with rains and thunderstorms throughout Ukraine. But this should not interfere with the economic life. Thus, the World Bank's Executive Board plans to consider a new loan for Ukraine aimed at restoring economic growth during the crisis. Meanwhile, the stats agency will unveil industrial output figures for the first five months of 2020.