Covid-19 cases surpass 20m in Eastern Europe as inoculation lags

Published October 25, 2021
Romanians wait in line to get an anti-Covid vaccine during a “marathon of vaccination” at the National Library on Sunday. —AFP
Romanians wait in line to get an anti-Covid vaccine during a “marathon of vaccination” at the National Library on Sunday. —AFP

BUCHAREST: The number of coronavirus infections recorded so far in eastern Europe surpassed 20 million on Sunday, according to a tally, as the region grapples with its worst outbreak since the pandemic started and inoculation efforts lag.

Countries in the region have the lowest vaccination rates in Europe, with less than half of the population having received a single dose.

Hungary tops the region’s vaccination rates with 62pc of its population having gotten at least one shot, whereas Ukraine has given just 19pc of its residents a single dose, according to Our World in Data.

New infections in the region have steadily risen and now average over 83,700 new cases per day, the highest level since November last year, data through Friday showed. Although it has just 4pc of the world’s population, eastern Europe accounts for roughly 20pc of all new cases reported globally.

According to an analysis, three of the top five countries reporting the most deaths in the world are in eastern Europe — Russia, Ukraine and Romania.

Read more: EU vaccine probe deepens Europe’s Covid woes

More social gathering indoors after the lifting of restrictions just as winter sets in is driving a rise in Covid-19 infections in many countries across Europe, the World Health Organisation’s emergency director Mike Ryan said on Thursday.

As the wave of infections intensifies, many people in eastern Europe are torn between defiance and regret over not getting vaccinated.

Hundreds have protested in Sofia and other cities against mandatory certificates that came into force on Thursday, limiting access to many indoor public spaces to those who have been vaccinated.

A European Commission poll, the Eurobarometer, has shown that at least one person in three in most countries in the European Union’s east does not trust the healthcare system, compared to a bloc average of 18pc.

More than 40pc of all new cases reported in eastern Europe were in Russia, with 120 people testing positive every five minutes, according to an analysis. The country’s healthcare system is operating under great strain, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said on Wednesday. The nation on Friday reported record Covid fatalities for the fourth straight day.

So far, Russia has vaccinated about 36pc of its population with one vaccine shot.

Moscow, the country’s most populous city and capital, will next week shutdown all businesses except essential stores such as supermarkets and pharmacies to stem the spread of the disease.

Slovakia reported 3,480 new Covid-19 cases on Oct 19, its highest daily tally since March, health ministry data showed on Wednesday. The country has one of the lower vaccination rates in the EU, with just over half the adult population fully inoculated in the country of 5.5 million. This has contributed to a faster rise in infections than in some neighbouring countries.

Published in Dawn, October 25th, 2021

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