Ukraine has passed a milestone of 10,000 deaths caused by COVID-19 as the country faces what the health minister called a "very severe" winter of coronavirus cases.
Maksym Stepanov said on November 18 that Ukraine registered a record 256 new COVID-19 related deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the total toll to 10,112.
He said 12,496 new COVID-19 cases had been documented in the country and that 535 more children and 529 medical workers had contracted the disease.
In the past 24 hours, 1,668 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms in Ukraine.
The total number of cases in Ukraine has reached 570,153.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian government officials defended last week’s decision to close or restrict businesses at weekends except for essential services such as grocery shops, pharmacies, hospitals, and transport.
A member of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's administration resigned over the November 14 decision, while some mayors refused to comply with the order and some business owners held protests.
Speaking at a government meeting on November 18, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal called the weekend quarantine “a balanced alternative to a full lockdown.”
“If we all together adhere to the anti-epidemic rules, we will see the result in two to three weeks,” he added.
In a video interview with Reuters, Stepanov said the measures would lead to 10-15 percent fewer coronavirus cases than there might have been.
"I can say with confidence that if we adhere to these measures, we will be able to stop the growth, at least stabilize it where it is now," the health minister said.
He said the restrictions would help Ukraine get "through the hardest period, the hardest winter."
"Because the winter, in my opinion, will be very severe in terms of morbidity and the number of seriously ill," Stepanov said.
Zelenskiy and the head of his presidential office, Andriy Yermak, tested positive for the coronavirus early last week.