As Ukraine International Airlines defended itself against criticism on March 15 for hiking some of its ticket prices during a pandemic, its low-cost competitor sent a plane to coronavirus-stricken northern Italy to evacuate stranded Ukrainians.
A special SkyUp airlines flight, chartered by the government, departed that afternoon to evacuate 95 Ukrainian citizens, previously refused entry to Slovenia at the Slovenian-Italian border amid fear of the viral outbreak.
The airline stated on its Facebook page that the flight will evacuate Ukrainian nationals from the city of Venice in the virus-afflicted Veneto region, and that “this is only the first board to evacuate Ukrainians who cannot return home through quarantine.”
“The flight is performed at the initiative of the President of Ukraine Vlodymyr Zelensky and… the decision of the government,” the airline said.
The Boeing 737-700 aircraft, designed for 149 passengers, flew from Kyiv Boryspil International Airport to Venice Marco Polo at 16:00 on the Sunday afternoon, SkyUp also said.
A special epidemic facility has been installed in the plane and the entire crew was provided with protective masks and disinfectants, in accordance with the health ministry recommendations, the airline stated.
Passengers will undergo medical examination in Italy prior to boarding the aircraft.
Doctors will carry out medical supervision upon their arrival in Ukraine and all evacuees are required to carry out stay-at-home quarantine.
“We will send to self-isolation people without symptoms… and with a negative test result for COVID-19,” the deputy minister of health Viktor Lyashko wrote on March 15 of the precautions his ministry was taking.
SkyUp added that as the crew will not leave the aircraft in Italy, they are not required to undergo home-quarantine, but the plane will be disinfected after the flight.
Ukrainian nationals were stuck at the border between Italy and Slovenia on March 14, after Slovenian border guards refused them entry from Italy amid the worsening coronavirus pandemic.
Border guards in Slovenia reportedly stopped them at the border to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has been sweeping across Europe and has struck Italy especially hard. In response, the government said that the stranded Ukrainian nationals would be brought home on a chartered plane.
The Ukrainian government has said it will evacuate citizens from Italy amid the worsening coronavirus outbreak there, but it’s not yet clear how many will be brought home.
At an extraordinary meeting of the Cabinet on Saturday March 14, ministers discussed logistics for the evacuation of Ukrainians from Italy, which is by far the hardest-hit European country, with at least 17,660 confirmed infections and more than 1,266 deaths, almost all in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto.
From Monday, March 16 Ukraine will close its borders to foreigners, although those with residency permits can still travel, ministers have said. Ukraine is due to close the border and halt commercial passenger air traffic.
The coronavirus pandemic has already claimed 6,085 lives globally, with nearly 162,000 confirmed cases, according to the latest official data, which also reports that 76,00 patients have recovered from the illness.