Romania on Tuesday hit daily records in both coronavirus infections and deaths as the country grapples with an acute virus surge amid alarmingly low vaccination uptake.

Romania confirmed a record high of 18,863 new COVID-19 infections and 574 deaths in one day. It was the first time the European Union nation of 19 million surpassed 500 deaths in a single day.

Romania has the second-lowest vaccination rate in the EU behind Bulgaria — with just 34% adults fully inoculated against COVID-19, compared to the bloc average of 74%. That is stretching the country’s ailing health care system to maximum capacity: more than 1,800 coronavirus patients are now in intensive care.

In response to the unfolding disaster, the World Health Organisation said Tuesday it will send a senior expert to Romania to help strengthen the country’s pandemic response and it will facilitate the provision of 34,000 rapid COVID-19 diagnostic tests and 200 oxygen concentrators to treat virus patients.

“An urgent priority is to boost vaccination among vulnerable groups, reduce the risk of hospitalization and death, and relieve pressure on the health system,” Dr. Heather Papowitz, the WHO expert, said in a statement.

Last week, as Romania’s health care system struggled to cope with the onslaught of COVID-19 patients, several dozen patients were sent to Hungary to receive intensive care treatment and Italy sent 5,200 doses of monoclonal antibodies.

Romania has so far confirmed more than 1.4 million COVID-19 infections and the deaths of 42,616 COVID-19 patients.

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Follow all AP stories on the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.

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