Mongolian prime minister steps down amid COVID-19 protests
ULAANBAATAR (MONGOLIA) – Mongolia’s parliament has given approval for the resignation of Prime Minister Khurelsukh Ukhnaa after protests in the capital Ulaanbaatar over how the government handled the COVID-19 pandemic, the state news agency, Montsame, said.
Khurelsukh said in a resignation statement submitted on Thursday that he should “assume the responsibility upon himself and accept the demand of the public.”
Oyun-Erdene Luvsannamsrai, the chief cabinet secretary, will be taking his place, Montsame said.
The protests were triggered on Wednesday over what some Mongolians looked upon as inhumane treatment of a COVID-19 patient and her newborn baby, Montsame said.
Video footage had the patient in her nightgown and slippers in freezing conditions, being shifted with her baby to a specialist quarantine facility run by Mongolia’s National Center of Communicable Diseases.
The protests led to the dismissal of senior health officials. Mongolia’s deputy prime minister and health minister also announced their resignations.
The incident came amid growing public dissatisfaction with Mongolia’s economic situation and a lack of job opportunities.
Mongolia, which garnered praise from the World Health Organization in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic for how it dealt with the health crisis, has recently been trying to tackle an outbreak caused by an infected driver coming from Russia.
The country, with a population of around 3 million, has so far reported 1,584 cases.
While Khurelsukh said in his resignation speech that there have been no deaths from COVID-19 in Mongolia so far, there have been three fatalities according to the health ministry.