Eastern Europe has exceeded 20 million cases of Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic and so far, writes Reuters, which also notes that the region is facing the hardest period since the beginning of the pandemic, with slow vaccination rates . Even though it accounts for only 4% of the world’s population, Eastern Europe has about 20% of all new cases reported worldwide, and three of the top five countries in the world with the highest COVID-19 associated mortality rates are in Eastern Europe, namely Russia, Ukraine and Romania, it is also shown in the Reuters analysis.
Countries in the region have the lowest vaccination rates in Europe, with less than half of the population receiving a single dose. Hungary has the highest vaccination rate, with at least one dose being given to 62% of the population, while Ukraine has vaccinated only 19% of the population with a single dose, according to Our World in Data.
The number of new cases in the region has grown steadily, and now stands at a daily average of 83,700 cases – the highest level since November 2020, according to data confirmed by Reuters until Friday. Even though it accounts for only 4% of the global population, in Eastern Europe there have been about 20% of all new cases reported globally. According to a Reuters analysis, three of the top five countries in the world where most COVID-19-related deaths are reported are in Eastern Europe – Russia, Ukraine and Romania.
As the wave of infections intensifies, many people in Eastern Europe are torn between defiance and regret for not being vaccinated. Hundreds of people protested in Sofia and other cities against the mandatory certificates that went into effect on Thursday, limiting access to indoor public spaces only to those who have been vaccinated. A European Commission survey – the Eurobarometer, found that at least one in three people in most eastern European Union countries do not trust the medical system, as opposed to an average of 18% across the EU. More than 40 percent of all new cases reported in Eastern Europe were in Russia, where 120 people are tested positive every five minutes, according to a Reuters analysis. The country’s health system is operating in a state of major tension, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said on Wednesday.
On Friday, the country reported a record number of deaths associated with COVID, for the fourth day in a row. So far, in Russia, about 36% of the population have been vaccinated with a single dose. Moscow – the most populous city and capital of the country, will close all businesses in the next two weeks, except essential stores such as supermarkets and pharmacies, to curb the spread of the disease. Slovakia reported 3,480 new cases of COVID-19 on October 19, the worst toll since March, according to Wednesday’s Ministry of Health data. The country has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the EU, being fully vaccinated just over half of adults, out of a total population of 5.5 million.
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In Romania, hospitals are overworked to the point of collapse, with all emergency beds in the entire country being occupied. The morgues are also working at full capacity. The country reported records of deaths and illnesses on Tuesday. The virus killed, on average, one person every five minutes in October in Romania, where the vaccination rate is low. Ukraine recorded a record of new coronavirus infections and associated deaths on Friday for the second day in a row. At the same time, the state of emergency has been extended, allowing the authorities to impose restrictions until the end of the year, in order to limit infections.
The European press about the new restrictions imposed by Romania, which has become “a problem child”. “Fear and restrictions stimulate vaccination in skeptical Romania”, headlines the Spanish agency EFE. “In just a few weeks, the rate of vaccination has increased sixfold in Romania, where tens of thousands of skeptics are now flocking to receive the first dose, burdened by restrictions and frightened by the tide of deaths caused by the fourth wave.”
The West expects a severe “pandemic winter”
In several Western European countries – Germany, France, Great Britain, Austria – where the vaccination rate is over 60%. the number of infections and deaths has started to rise, and the authorities are still in doubt whether to introduce new restrictions.
The UK is preparing the ground for the implementation of Plan B, a new anti-pandemic measure, after health officials warned of a “whirlwind of pressure” on the public health system, especially during the winter.
Representatives of the British government contacted local authorities on Friday to find out the level of support for the “immediate implementation of Plan B – the winter plan”.
The Guardian’s revelations come as doctors warn of delayed surgery and staff shortages, as well as a triple threat of influenza, Covid-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) that severely affects the elderly and children.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has so far resisted suggestions to implement Plan B, a series of measures including the introduction of the green passport in the case of large gatherings of people, crowded public places but also the obligation of protective masks.
A memo sent by the health safety agency, marked as sensitive-official, contained an urgent request for evaluation to the local authorities.
“We are closely monitoring the data. The prime minister said explicitly that they do not show the need for plan B, which we have prepared if measures are required to prevent the increase in hospitalizations, which would put unsustainable pressure on the public system “, said a government spokesman.
The British government still hopes to speed up third-dose vaccination so that the need to re-impose restrictions is still avoided.
“Vaccines are the way to have a good winter. We have made phenomenal progress, but our work is not over, because we know that vaccine protection will decrease after six months. Make your third dose so that you, your family and your loved ones can be safe, ”said the British Prime Minister, stressing that the call is addressed to those eligible for a booster dose, those who have not made the second dose and children who can be immunized.
On Sunday, the United Kingdom registered 44,985 new cases, after last reporting about 50,000. England reported 135 deaths.
NHS officials have warned that Covid’s pressures have added to staffing problems, efforts to deal with surgical arrears, long waits in emergency departments and difficulties with other respiratory infections. “It’s a whole package of issues that combine, forming a whirlwind of pressure,” said Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS providers. “COVID has exacerbated these challenges and brought some more.”