Masks, distancing as Kiev metro opens after lockdown

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Kiev (AFP)

Ukraine's capital on Monday welcomed passengers into its subway system after more than two months of lockdown imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The Kiev metro, which normally transports 1.5 million people daily, remained deserted, with only 20 passengers or fewer in each car even during rush hour, AFP journalists saw.

Posters at platforms urge passengers to observe social distancing of at least 1.5 metres (five feet) and audio messages encourage Ukrainians to "protect their health".

"I am happy (that the metro opened), because I spent two months at home," 65-year-old Yuliya told AFP as she emerged from one of the central stations.

"The virus is scary and precautionary measures (in the subway) are justified," she added, with her obligatory face mask on.

Officers carried out spot checks of passengers' temperatures -- notably those showing "severe signs of respiratory illness", Nataliya Makogon, deputy head of the Kiev metro, told AFP.

Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko earlier announced the metro opening, in line with a gradual easing of the lockdown in the city.

The Kiev subway, which was launched in 1960, is the most popular public transportation system in the Ukrainian capital.

Ukraine has confirmed 21,245 coronavirus cases and 623 COVID-19 fatalities.