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World News

Ukraine's health minister tests positive for COVID-19 as cases rise

KYIV (Reuters) - Ukrainian Health Minister Maksym Stepanov said on Saturday he had tested positive for COVID-19, shortly after announcing the country had posted a record number of new cases in a single day.

FILE PHOTO: Medical specialists wearing protective gear stand next to an ambulance outside a hospital for patients infected with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Kyiv, Ukraine November 9, 2020. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich/File Photo

“This is a war, every day the virus takes the lives of Ukrainians,” Stepanov told a televised briefing at which he said 12,524 new cases had been registered in the previous 24 hours, up from the record of 11,787 a day earlier.

The number of confirmed infections in Ukraine has now reached 525,176, with 9,508 deaths.

Stepanov, 45, later wrote on the Telegram messaging app: “Despite being careful and following all safety rules, I tested positive for COVID-19 today.”

He said he would continue working remotely.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is among those in hospital after testing positive for COVID-19.

The daily infection tally began rising in September, leading the government to decide to impose a national lockdown at weekends to try to curb the spread of the virus.

But authorities in some cities have said they will ignore the government’s order as they seek to avoid worsening the economic situation in the regions.

Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said on Friday the government decision was binding, and Stepanov said the new measures could help to preserve the country’s medical system.

“If we reduce the spread of the disease in these two days (at weekends), we will significantly reduce the burden on our medical system,” Stepanov said.

Weekend lockdowns will be in force from Nov. 14-30. They require the closing or restricting of the activity of most businesses, with the exception of grocery stores, pharmacies, hospitals and transport.

Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Kim Coghill, Mark Potter and Timothy Heritage

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