Weekend quarantine. How Ukrainian entrepreneurs survived the first weekend
And why it would appear they can count on psychologist's help only.
The Cabinet of Ministers introduced the weekend quarantine in Ukraine with the decision of November 11. During its force, it prohibits the work of almost all public institutions, except for public transport, grocery stores, gas stations, and pharmacies, throughout three weekends (November 14 to 30).
The Cabinet of Ministers' decision has banned receiving visitors in catering establishments, and work of cultural institutions, fitness centers, gyms, and swimming pools in shopping malls and other entertainment establishments starting from last weekend.
However, it's already known that Lviv, Cherkasy, Ternopil, Zhytomyr, Rivne, Odesa, Kramatorsk, Sloviansk officially ignored the weekend quarantine. In fact, Dnipro didn't introduce quarantine at all. Prior to that, markets operated in Zaporizhia, Kharkiv, Berdychiv, Brovary, Poltava, and Khmelnytskyi. Kyiv didn't accept the "central decision" as well: several fairs took place in the city on Saturday.
Local authorities' opposition didn't affect the police work. For example, in Lviv alone, they fined 54 entrepreneurs on the first quarantine Saturday. Salespersons and owners of stores and outlets, who trusted the Lviv Executive Committee's decision and still went to work, faced a real problem: the police, protocols, fines. In Ukraine, the police created more than a thousand administrative protocols for violating quarantine conditions just in one day. As a result, they received an immense pool of curses from store owners, retailers, and ordinary people who came to shop or planned a meeting for a cup of coffee (because the mayor "allowed").
Some entrepreneurs turned out to be more inventive, opening their doors to visitors under new signs that protected from fines: in Ternopil, the club and restaurant "Lysy" and "Leliva" adopted the charter of the "Bratstvo Lysykh" religious organization before the weekend quarantine. Without obstacles, they worked through both days. Law enforcement officers came to them, but no one stopped the club and restaurant from running, as religious gatherings could not be completely banned without imposing martial law or a state of emergency.
"We explained to them we adhere to the restrictions imposed on religious organizations. They (the police) took it with humor. They understand we have to resort to such absurd things only because the authorities don't hear us. The Cabinet makes unconstitutional decisions. We see double standards here," UNIAN cites the owner of establishments, Taras Kovalchuk.
Some entertainment venues and gyms worked "on-call" for regular customers, having previously sent them notifications about new working conditions on weekends in closed groups and chat rooms.
Taken all round, entrepreneurs' attitude to introducing the quarantine was negative in the week's last two days. On November 9, a wave of demonstrations swept the country, where restaurateurs, cinema representatives, owners of entertainment venues, gyms, and beauty salons demanded any business be open during quarantine, citing a right to work expressed in Articles 42 and 43, guaranteed by the Constitution of Ukraine. About 5 million workers across the country work for institutions forced to close "for only 6 days a month." All of them have to lose their jobs and pay on these days.
Rubryka asked small-business representatives how and in what mood they managed to survive the current lockdown first weekend.
📍 Oleksandra Mykhalchuk-Osadcha, co-founder of Mimidou, Kyiv
Yes, our children's beauty studio Mimidou, unfortunately, was also subject to weekend quarantine restrictions.
We now work exclusively on weekdays from 10:00 to 20:00. It applies to "beauty services" (haircuts, hairstyles, manicures, ear piercings). Luckily, we still have a full cycle. Now we're having high hopes for costume rental, children's holidays, and our new product – quest boxes.
The mood, of course, is not great. We opened the studio only in January this year and almost immediately closed for quarantine. You would think we've just been recovering, getting back on our feet. And here we are again, sitting at home on the weekend. We gathered the best team, understanding girls who stay with me, although it's not possible to save 100% of their salaries. So far, I can't say how this "new adoption" has affected the business, since only the first "closed" weekend has passed, but we've already lost several customers. Our key decision now is to think of Plan B in case of a complete lockdown. Not haircuts and earrings, but something giving our business a chance to survive.
We rent studio space. In Obolon, landlords were very understanding in the spring; we didn't pay rent for the period when we were closed. We've written an official letter to them about the new quarantine, but we're still waiting for a response. Also, we're currently finishing the renovation of a new studio on the left bank in Comforttown. There, trained by previous experience, we immediately put the clause in the agreement on terminating rent payments for the period of the studio being restricted to work due to quarantine.
I sincerely hope that no full lockdown takes place. We're ready for some restrictions. Closing completely again is high risk; after quarantine, Mimidou may not return as it was. Now we're accumulating strength and trying not to panic.
After learning from the spring experience, we took some measures. Among them are quest boxes. It's an ideal solution for parents whose children are in quarantine and who no longer have the strength to invent new games and have fun. There's a collection of task cards parents set up around the house according to the instructions. Following them, the children run from hiding spot to hiding spot and find a gift at the end (also part of the box). I adore our "Sweet Quest" because it gives me an invaluable coffee break.
I consider it populist to some extent that some Ukrainian cities refused to adopt the resolution. Now saving ill people might be the right strategy for public administration. Closing or not closing a small business is a secondary issue. While they limit us and our fellow entrepreneurs in our work, hospitals are still critically short of medicines and equipment. It suggests that the fundamental problem is still unresolved.
Weekend quarantine is accepted more easily than spring quarantine because it's expected. It's a bit sad, of course, that businesses with more resources and connections continue to operate (although they may also be in the restaurant business or provide consumer services). Transport, of course, contributes to the infection spreading more than our studio with one or two clients simultaneously and sterile instruments. But that's… demagogy.
📍 Liliia Kurasova, director of Lambre cosmetics store, Sumy
I am an entrepreneur; I sell cosmetics and perfumes and have a Lambre store in the Atrium shopping mall. I've been self-employed for almost 30 years. All this time the state isn't thinking about me. But I pay taxes on time, employ myself and my workers, and solve problems with my finances, training, and treatment. I help other people, either with finances, or training, or advice, and I don't have benefits for rent or loans.
All the time I thought having citizens like me has been beneficial for the state. But this year has shown that people like me taking care of ourselves are not enough for our state.
What mood am I in? The mood is terrible. When our authorities announced the first lockdown, I wasn't ready not to work, but I obeyed. I gave leave to my employees and worked in the mode of product delivery. I paid for employees' leave and also paid rent and taxes. The financial cushion helped. But there's only one. They were just getting used to new working conditions caused by the coronavirus when a new quarantine was announced again. Although the quarantine doesn't seem so terrible, only 2 days a week, these two days are the days when people go shopping to find something they need. In the first lockdown, no one met me half-way. I paid the rent in full, taxes too because I have a stupid habit of paying in advance. I understand, no one will meet me half-way a second time around. Now we have 6 days less of working days. How can the state compensate us for them? Or the mall? Who and how much? Nobody and none. Each of us understands no one will solve our problems.
One-sided lockdown becomes even more paradoxical and illogical. As always, some people continue working and having an income, and others are barely making ends meet, and the ban will lead them to the street. Because of the first lockdown, several stores I served didn't survive and closed. How many people will the second lockdown force close their business? And worst of all, no one cares.
We are told that we cause the spread of the coronavirus. I really want to ask, how??? Schools, grocery stores, transport, large stores, like Epicenter, stay open!!! How many people go there? How do small shops, visited by 10 people a day, washed and disinfected after each client, spread the disease? HOW?
To date, it's proven that the most effective way to win the fight is mass testing and quality treatment. Does our clumsy leadership hide its failure behind our backs? Like it's our fault that the disease is spreading, not theirs. In my city, people mostly receive salaries of 5-6-7 thousand. The test costs 1500. Please tell me how people can get tested? It frightens people that the next utility bills will be high, how much they'll have to pay if they get sick. Purchasing power has declined. Almost everyone in the sales sector felt the sales had dropped. And now they reduce the number of trading days by 30%. It's the road to bankruptcy.
I respect the mayors who supported small business. It's reasonable. Killing a small business is easy. It won't be easy to start it again. Loans at unrealistic interest rates are an abyss leading nowhere.
The country's leadership simply needs to learn how to test people en masse in order to localize patients promptly and set up a treatment system; provide low-income citizens with medicines and security measures; control crowded places, schools, transport. And I'm against fines. It got to the point that police officers manipulate the situation. They fine store employees who take off their masks in an empty store to drink water or tea. They also ask a person to come in and remove the mask. The salesperson doesn't have a chance to tell the guest to put a mask on, as a police officer flies to the store and fine. What is it? Is it a fight against the disease? The quarantine brings profit to some and an inability to survive to others.
Weekend lockdown will not bring us closer to reducing the infection incidence. Maybe they should provide quality information about the virus. No intimidation, no scarecrows, no fines on the street.
📍 Tetiana Samoilenko, founder of Nёggenshil restaurant, Kamianske
This weekend we worked for takeout. When the revenue was more or less close to normal on Saturday, it was only 10% of what we planned on Sunday. On weekdays, restaurateurs haven't long rolled in clover. For instance, our restaurant is open till 22 hours all the time of coronavirus, and the cash has become less by 45%, compared to previous years.
Now restaurants have learned to work for delivery. It's hard to say what else you can think of. In the new quarantine, we added 4 types of pizza to the delivery, in a week we will start serving them. It's very unfortunate for our highly qualified chefs. During the quarantine restrictions, they had to cook fast food more often than delicious inventive dishes they're proud of.
And now we, the restaurateurs, have an uncertain situation. We can say that uncertainty hasn't stopped for a day since spring but is constantly taking on novel forms.
In Dnipro, we have the "Finik" food court (coffee, healthy desserts) in the "Mist" shopping center. Its revenue on Monday was UAH 600, which has never happened since the opening. Now, it won't work on the weekend, so even these 600 UAH turn into a complete zero. Meanwhile, rent is UAH 30,000 per month, utility bills are around UAH 5,000. These expenses are impossible to reduce. The shopping center doesn't want to reduce payments. We argued with them in the afternoon, while they previously promised to make a 30% discount in November.
Cutting staff even more is too much. The shopping center rents for money pegged to the dollar. I know that's not only our mall. Shopping centers in Ukraine have lost nothing, as they pegged the rent to the dollar exchange rate. Compared to the summer, when the payment was in UAH, now they receive 20% more. We had to sign a contract with landlords under which we can terminate the lease only six months after written notice or pay for six months and go. They don't consider coronavirus to be a force majeure, and the government hasn't legally provided the acquisition of a certificate of force majeure from the Chamber of Commerce so that shopping malls don't loot.
This weekend, even McDonald's didn't work in our shopping center in food courts. Someone tried to open but failed to work. The sitting area for food courts is closed.
📍 Iryna Moravska, owner of the coloristic beauty salon Super Blond, Lviv
I could never understand politicians… I will now talk only about the salon business, and not about others on the ban list for the weekend. I have a question: how is Saturday different from Friday at the hairdressers? Especially in November, when the major category of people is waiting for December or late December? The salon has 7 workplaces in an area of over 100 square meters. It includes manicure places. We maintain the distance. Employees are in masks and gloves the entire day. Everything is disinfected after each client. In our salon, Sunday is always a day off, because I have respect for the families of my employees. Mother should be at home on Sunday. And I don't need any quarantine bans for this!
Authorities are fighting the virus strangely. I feel they approved the first thing that came to their minds. They don't need to allocate any funds, make efforts, and be responsible.
Instead of strengthening positions in hospitals, supporting doctors with everything they need, opening closed hospitals, and creating additional places for patients, they are fighting small businesses. In the spring we failed our fight against the quarantine. We pointlessly stayed at home, and now it's just too late…
What remains is taking responsibility for oneself. You understand that you'll dig out on your own if you run into covid. We have almost no healthy doctors and hospital places left. When everything's closed again, there'll be no money left for treatment. I know, it's a pricy pleasure.
They shouldn't prevent people from working! But they need to check everyone. A fine-fear will discipline people. I am against giving one day away! Saturday is the only day when people working during the week can come and get service! A service that will bring positive emotions, being the best medicine against the disease.
Personally, I suspected in the summer that we'd have another quarantine, and not just a weekend one. That's why I was preparing all this time. I denied myself everything this year in order to live at least three months in peace. In my salon, no staff has fallen ill since the beginning of the quarantine, because we follow hygiene. There are clients who completely refuse to sit in masks, so there are difficulties. We fight against them.
I rent the space, but I am ready for any turn of events.
I have no fears! I believe everything will be fine in the spring. To be honest, I also understand politicians. The situation pressures on them, the world pressures on them, and we depend on them.
On Saturday, the police issued acts to all. Except me. Because I treated them like people. I clarified I understand they were forced to do what they didn't want to do. I recalled the war on Maidan and said police were with the people. This phrase affected them, and they said I was the only one who communicated with them normally. Everyone else was aggressive. Neighbors, competitors shouted and drove them to me… Why do I tell you they were fined and I wasn't? And I started asking them not to fine anyone who works in our building. However, as far as I know, it didn't help much, then the neighbors showed me the drawn up acts. Yes, before opening on Saturday, I was preparing. I called the hotline because I understood they would still come to us. They picked up the phone and advised me on how to behave. They reminded me of Article 42 of the Constitution, and that I should be acquainted with all my rights.
In fact, every lawyer knows that if the acts that have already been drawn up this weekend go to court, the people will win.
📍 Yulia Fedorenko, CFO of Sushi Jen Sushi Bar, Kyiv
We opened before the peak of the first wave quarantine, on May 1. It so happened our sushi bar launch began before introducing all restrictions. We suspended the opening for a month and a half, but then they decided to start.
It turns out that we always worked in turbulent conditions. Our mood is positive. From the very beginning, our business model was set up for delivery as well. And in the conditions of weekend quarantine, we quickly rebuilt our process to direct all forces on delivery and cover other Kyiv areas where we didn't work earlier.
The absurdity of the decisions under "weekend quarantine" is outrageous, when everyone understands these measures will have no result.
We are aware of the gravity of the situation. Strict restrictions may make sense, namely closing everything for a couple of weeks and stop the virus from spreading. But when taking such measures, it's necessary to take into account and take several measures to support businesses.
If we recall the total lockdown in the spring, we perceived it easier, because everyone was in the same situation. Now the approach is very selective and not logical. That's outrageous.
📍 Zhanna Potapova, head of Forever Fitness Club, Lviv
I assuaged my recent doubts. Small and medium-sized businesses in Ukraine are being destroyed and crushed. It leads to the separation and destruction of the state. If we, entrepreneurs, don't defend our rights ourselves, we're not worth a dime. We'll have no future. The government will wipe us out of the country, freeing up space only for oligarchic monopolies and corporations. We are the most active, intelligent, and independent part of the population. We could raise our economy and overcome unemployment, get the country out of debt and dependence. We'll lose Ukraine if we don't save ourselves as a class. For good.
Nobody "closed" our fitness club, because nobody "opened" it. I opened it myself as I wished. And I'll decide whether to close. This is my business, my fitness club. I rented the premises, renovated them, and honestly paid all payments and taxes.
That's why this weekend I worked in the format of the Ukrainian Constitution. My team's mood is combative. We know that the authorities, regardless of their parties' colors, are indifferent to entrepreneurs. All of them, without exception, would happily stop small business in Ukraine. I don't believe in any of them. We work, adhere to the Constitution of Ukraine, and defend our rights.
Yes, police officers came to us, but I wasn't afraid of this visit. I knew well what laws I can use and how to talk, so I left them with nothing. Those afraid of sanctions, fines, and bans are already half dead. You should be afraid only of your own fear. There is no know-how. There's no law you must obey. The trouble is that most people don't know their rights. The Constitution and its articles on right to work are above the resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers.
I fully support the decision of Sadovyi and other mayors who didn't obey. At least they sided with us, the entrepreneurs, and I am grateful to them for that.
📍 Olena Lohvynenko, founder of the inclusive confectionery "Zoloti Sertsia Zakarpattia," Uzhgorod
📍 Olena Lohvynenko, founder of the inclusive confectionery "Zoloti Sertsia Zakarpattia," Uzhgorod
We are in a typical mood. I communicate with restaurateurs regularly. Everyone is worried. I also took part in the protest. My opinion is: if you have to choose between fully closing and weekend quarantine, then weekend quarantine is a way out. People get the coronavirus. They are dying. The complete mess of this year can't be compared with 2014. We went through it and now perceive any trash situation philosophically.
I can't say that I support the authorities of those cities that didn't impose weekend quarantine. In Uzhgorod, they play it safe on this occasion. Our city authorities are thinking, trying to make independent decisions, but the city is small and provincial. People are used to talking, not acting. Restaurateurs want our authorities to hear them, but no one really knows how to unite.
In fact, any force majeure shows "who's an excellent manager and who's not." Weekend quarantine is a psychological test. For some it's scary, others change quickly, and others adapt. Our inclusive school works. Daily. Art therapy and classes with a teacher. The confectionery is currently undergoing an upgrade. In the last quarantine, we studied and wrote grants. Now we're mastering grants and preparing for a new project, which has an iconic name "Fioletovo" ("whatever" – TN).
📍 Sofia Terebova, head of March & Co. Bakery, Kyiv
We have a small confectionery production, so we don't have an actual establishment with a shop window, coffee, and tables. We sell online and have a delivery service (we arranged it in the first lockdown).
We continue to work on weekends because we have the right to do so. We've never received guests.
But the weekend quarantine affected us, too. Sales through coffee shops decreased (we now have 50 partners in Kyiv to whom we deliver desserts). Their sales rate fell on the weekends and ours too.
The landlord doesn't plan to reduce the rent while we are working.
📍 Andrii Zaderei, co-owner of a bookstore-coffee shop, Odesa
I work as a psychologist; I have a private practice. Also, I'm a co-owner of a small bookstore. First about the bookstore.
The weekend quarantine has had a direct effect. The bookstore must be closed on weekends. It'll significantly reduce revenue, as Saturday and Sunday are good days in terms of trade. Although in fact, we didn't close, because our store shares common premises with a coffee shop, and coffee shops can work at least for takeout. So we pretend to guard the books, but in no case do we sell them, though if you ask, then… It's a kind of trick, but it disgusts the soul.
The owner of the premises we're renting supports us; he significantly reduced the rent in the spring. Since it's not a complete lockdown, there are no concessions.
Spring quarantine was a shock, but then everyone was shocked: us, publishers, wholesalers, buyers. We found common ground, and by August the work was back on track. In fact, we're very optimistic for people who didn't return to last year's figures. In fact, the bookstore has been unprofitable for more than a month, and further strengthening of quarantine adds arguments to the decision to close the store.
The mood is pessimistic between despair and apathy.
I agree with the opinion that the total lockdown in the spring was easier.
Then the situation was much simpler. They defined the time limit, and it applied to all or mostly all. Every day, the day was becoming longer, bringing sunlight. There was no information field of many facts about COVID deaths. Society has experienced stress and later returned to normal. Now the situation is excellent. Quarantine conditions vary, or until recently differed, in different areas and districts. In addition, they weren't constant all the time, changing. In autumn, sunlight decreases. The connection with depression is apparent. Now the stress is prolonged, and psychological and financial resources are depleted.
In addition, the average Ukrainian doesn't feel supported by the state. What to do if one gets sick? There's no distinct, understandable, competent communication between the government and society. There is almost no financial support.
Clients who turn to me for psychological help almost don't talk about the quarantine itself and related measures but talk about their own problems, crises that have worsened against the background. Anxiety often becomes the leading emotion.
I can't talk about the expediency of any quarantine measures, but I can say what's missing. To reduce the level of anxiety, it's necessary to describe the current situation precisely, honestly, and clearly. It's also important to explain the motives for the actions. The statements must be consistent. It's essential to show respect for society, the public, and public institutions. Perhaps being honest is most important because you can leave crises behind only by genuinely describing and acknowledging them.
I'm unlikely to say anything new, but remind the key thing that you should do on a personal level. You need to take care of relationships with loved ones, at least don't forget to support them. It's great when a person adheres to certain rituals: daily, weekly, traditional holidays, professional holidays, etc. Participation in religious, public, and volunteer organizations can play a good role here. You need to take care of your own health, not focus on Covid. Everyone knows their weaknesses. It's necessary to learn to ask for help in a difficult situation. In our society, it is also difficult. If you find yourself in a situation difficult to bear, or get out of, turn to professionals.
Interestingly, the first "closed" weekend resulted in the authorities having their "plans B" and proposals to address the issue of weekend lockdown: on Monday, November 16, Deputy Health Minister Iryna Mykychak advised entrepreneurs in forced downtime to "look for additional sources of income" and go to work in the hospital.
"We just ask you to look around and find other additional sources of income where you can earn during quarantine, from home, online, remotely, providing remote services for takeout, export, and so on," Mykychak stated.
According to her, hospitals are ready to provide temporary jobs for entrepreneurs in forced downtime. She noted that hospitals and medical centers now need "strong and healthy workers": economists, accountants, nurses, technicians, laundry and kitchen workers, electricians, drivers, caretakers, janitors, handypersons, and more.
It would appear, in modern realities, Ukrainian entrepreneurs can count on psychologist's help only. Almost none of them counts on adequate support from the authorities.
But not only psychologists can support small businesses and a cultural field. Each of us can do it. On a weekday, go to a museum, theater, or philharmonic. Visit the evening screening at the cinema and buy popcorn or sweets. Go to the nearest cafe, or buy a season ticket in the gym. Buy a book in an independent bookstore. On the weekend, order delivery or takeaway food from your favorite restaurant or cafe.
After all, all these organizations represent not only owners but also millions of employees and families.
To recap, deputies suggest the government cancel the weekend quarantine. The Cabinet of Ministers responded to the people's deputies' proposal to cancel the "weekend quarantine".