Coronavirus: Ukraine protesters attack buses carrying China evacuees

Protester throws a stone at a bus of evacuees from China in Novi Sanzhary, in Ukraine's central Poltava region
Protesters in Novi Sanzhary hurled stones at the buses carrying evacuees

Dozens of protesters in a Ukrainian town have attacked buses carrying evacuees from coronavirus-hit China.

The evacuees were being brought to the hospital in Novi Sanzhary, in the central Poltava region, where they will be held in quarantine for 14 days.

Many residents fear the virus could spread through the town, which has a population of about 10,000.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged people to show solidarity, and to remember that “we are all human”.

Earlier on Thursday, 45 Ukrainians and 27 foreign nationals were flown from Wuhan in China, the epicentre of the deadly outbreak, to Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine.

Six buses then drove them to the hospital in Novi Sanzhary, where they were met by demonstrators lighting bonfires and hurling stones.

Police officers clearing the road
Police officers cleared the road for the buses to take the evacuees to the hospital to be quarantined
Protests in Novi Sanzhary
Dozens of local residents protested against the arrival of the evacuees on Thursday

The country’s health ministry said none of the passengers were sick.

Ukraine’s diplomatic mission added that three Ukrainians and a resident of Kazakhstan had been left behind in China, because they had reported having a fever.

Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk, Health Minister Zoriana Skaletska and Interior Minister Arsen Avakov all travelled to the city to try and calm tensions.

Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and Health Minister Zoriana Skaletska
Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and Health Minister Zoriana Skaletska travelled to the town to try and calm tensions

In footage published by local media, Mr Avakov was seen telling the protesters: “We are not talking about infected people, we are talking about healthy people.”

One person then replied: “So far.”

In a statement, President Zelensky urged Ukrainians to show compassion and refrain from protesting.

“Most of the passengers are people under 30. They are almost like children to many of us,” he said.

“But there is another danger that I would like to mention. The danger of forgetting that we are all human and we are all Ukrainians. Each of us – including those who ended up in Wuhan during the epidemic.”

More than 76,000 cases of the disease named Covid-19 have been reported, and 2,247 related deaths.

The vast majority of the cases and deaths have been in China.

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