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AFP
January 22, 2021

Mongolian PM resigns after public outcry

World

AFP
January 22, 2021

ULAANBAATAR: Mongolia’s prime minister resigned Thursday following protests and public outrage over the treatment of a coronavirus patient and her newborn baby.

Landlocked Mongolia reported just a handful of Covid-19 cases last year after imposing strict border controls, but in November its first domestic transmissions caused a new wave of lockdowns and restrictions.

Anger mounted this week after TV footage showed a woman who appeared to have recently given birth being moved to an infectious disease centre wearing only hospital pyjamas and plastic slippers, despite temperatures dipping to minus 25 degrees Celsius.

After protests outside government buildings on Wednesday, the Mongolian politician apologised on behalf of the government and said he would stand down immediately. “Unfortunately, we made mistake during relocating that mother,” admitted Prime Minister Khurelsukh Ukhnaa Thursday. “It was heartbreaking to see how she was treated.” “As a prime minister, I must take the responsibility.”

The video of the woman in an ambulance clutching her baby prompted fierce criticism, particularly as Mongolian tradition dictates new mothers should avoid the cold weather and cold food for the first month after birth.

On Wednesday around 5,000 mostly young protesters gathered in a square opposite government buildings in the capital Ulaanbaatar, some carrying wrapped up bundles to represent babies.

The vice prime minister — also head of the national emergency commission handling the pandemic — had already resigned on Wednesday evening, followed by the minister of health. The head of the hospital and disease centre in the middle of the row also resigned.

As the prime minister stands down, President Battulga Khaltmaa remains in place as head of state. But Khurelsukh has previously said he intends to stand for president in upcoming elections this year, and in his resignation speech he said he had “lost faith” in Battulga as head of state.

This week’s row is the latest clash over the government’s handling of the Covid-19 outbreak as anger simmers over Mongolian nationals stuck overseas after the country closed its borders.