Ukraine bans pilgrimage to Uman over COVID-19 fears

The Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs announced that the government had decided to prohibit the annual mass pilgrimage to the city of Uman by tens of thousands of hassidim and other Orthodox Jews over the upcoming Rosh Hashanah holiday.

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said that the mass gathering would likely create a large spike in COVID-19 infections, spreading it amongst both participants and the local population.

Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein had been opposed to the pilgrimage this year, saying that it would have led to “a tragedy” and mass spread of the coronavirus disease.

“We respect the national traditions of different peoples and religious communities and every year we do our best to ensure that they comply with the highest standards of security,” said Avakov.

“However, in recent weeks, Ukraine has seen an increase in outbreaks of coronavirus among the population,” he continued, adding that “the epidemiological situation in the country and the world does not allow to organize and hold mass events, especially with the participation of foreigners.”

The minister noted that religious processions which were to be held shortly by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate have also been cancelled due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19, stating that he therefore “hopes for understanding in this matter from the representatives of the Hasidic religious community.”

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