Ukraine condemns virus unrest; Italy seeks self-quarantines

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NOVI SANZHARY, Ukraine (AP) – A Ukrainian village where residents clashed with riot police and threw rocks at buses while protesting the local quarantine of people evacuated from China is under control but the unrest may continue, Ukraine’s prime minister said Friday.

The daylong protests broke out after the government announced that more than 70 evacuees would spend two weeks in a sanatorium in the village of Novi Sanzhary to make sure they weren’t infected with the virus from China.

Several hundred villagers put up road blocks, burned tires and hurled stones at buses arriving with the people evacuated from the city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus outbreak. Ukrainian Health Minister Zoryana Skaletska voluntarily joined the evacuees for the 14-day quarantine to help assuage local residents’ concerns.

Nine police officers and one civilian were hospitalized as a result of Thursday’s turmoil, and 24 protesters were detained. Ukraine does not have any confirmed cases of the new coronavirus that has infected more than 75,000 people in mainland China.

In Italy, meanwhile, health officials reported the country’s first cases of contagion in people who had not been in China. The three new cases bring to six the number of people in Italy known to be infected with the virus.

Indicating how seriously the Italian government saw the domestically acquired infections, the Italian Health Ministry ordered anyone who had been in direct contact with the three new patients to be quarantined for 14 days, and called for all residents of the two Lombardy towns where they lived to stay home.

The first of the three to test positive for the virus was a 38-year-old Italian man who met several meetings with someone who had recently been in China, Lombardy welfare chief Giulio Gallera said. The man’s wife subsequently tested positive, as did a person who came into contact with the man doing sports.

Italy’s civil protection service said all precautions were being taken “to put in place all the necessary measures to reduce the health risk.”

Rome’s infectious disease hospital is caring for three other people with the virus, a Chinese couple from the hard-hit city of Wuhan and an Italian.

Addressing Ukraine’s parliament Friday, Prime Minister Oleskiy Honcharuk warned that “provocations may continue” in order to “create panic, undermine trust of the people, sow discord among us.”

Honcharuk condemned the protests as “part of the information war” and said there was no reason for Ukrainians to fear for their safety. The evacuees are safe as well, he said.

Hundreds of Ukrainian National Guard troops guarded the sanatorium Friday, with more officers on standby, the Interior Ministry said. Local police actively patrolled the area, and so far no protests were reported.

Ukrainian passengers evacuated from the Chinese city of Wuhan, look though a bus window outside Novi Sarzhany, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. Several hundred residents in Ukraine’s Poltava region protested to stop officials from quarantining the evacuees in their village because they feared becoming infected. Demonstrators put up road blocks and burned tires, while Ukrainian media reported that there were clashes with police, and more than 10 people were detained. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
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