Romania reported a record daily number of 591 COVID-19 deaths Tuesday amid a persistently low vaccination rate and a wave of coronavirus infections that has overwhelmed the country’s ailing health care system.

Only 37% of adults in Romania, a European Union member with around 19 million people, have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 compared to an EU average of 75%. Within the 27-nation EU, only Bulgaria has a smaller share of its population vaccinated.

Romanian authorities said Tuesday that 541 of the 591 people who had died of COVID-19 since the day before were unvaccinated. More than 1,800 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care Tuesday.

The unfolding disaster prompted authorities to impose tighter restrictions starting last week. Vaccination certificates are required for many day-to-day activities, such as going to the gym, the cinema or a shopping mall. For everyone, there is a 10 p.m. curfew.

Octavian Jurma, a doctor and health statistician, told The Associated Press that Romania’s high COVID-19 mortality rate is the result of strong-anti-vaccination movements, poor medical education and a national response that has failed to curb the health crisis.

“There was no (government) communication strategy whatsoever, and no education strategy. The only people communicating, and very effectively, are the anti-vaxxers and the negationist movements,” Jurma said Tuesday. “The truth is that this pandemic wave was left to peak completely unmitigated — and the whole burden was put on the hospitals.”

The number of vaccines administered in Romania increased through October and reached a daily record of 150,000 doses. But the number fell over the last week, declining to around 75,000 doses on Monday.

Since the pandemic started, Romania has registered more than 1.6 million confirmed cases and 48,664 deaths. The country’s previous daily death toll record of 574 was set Oct. 19.

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Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

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