Ukraine sees new record high in virus deaths, infections

KYIV, Ukraine -- The number of coronavirus deaths and infections in Ukraine reached an all-time high for a second consecutive day Friday. This is a serious problem for Ukraine, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Europe.

Ukraine sees new record high in virus deaths, infections

KYIV, Ukraine -- The number of coronavirus deaths and infections in Ukraine reached an all-time high for a second consecutive day Friday. This is a serious problem for Ukraine, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Europe.

Ukrainian health officials reported 23785 new confirmed infections, 614 deaths and 61 injuries in the last 24 hours.

Kyiv authorities closed schools for two weeks beginning Friday. Similar measures were also taken in other areas where there was high levels of contagion.

Authorities blame the rapid increase in infections on the slow pace of vaccinations in this nation of 41 million. Ukrainians have the option to choose from Moderna, AstraZeneca, Pfizer or Sinovac vaccines. However, only 15% of the population has been fully vaccinated. This is Europe's lowest level, after Armenia.

The country has seen over 2.7 million cases of infection and 63,000 deaths.

Due to the rapid rise in contagion, the government has tightened restrictions. To board long-distance buses, trains, and planes, you must show proof of vaccination.

Rivne is 300 km (190 miles) west Kyiv. The city hospital is flooded with COVID-19 patients. Doctors say that the situation is worse now than it was during the waves of infections that hit the country early in the pandemic.

"The course of the disease is definitely more severe and aggressive than last year. Valentyn Koroliuk (head of the intensive-care unit at the hospital) stated that patients are getting younger. "Unfortunately, the patients in our department aren't vaccinated."

Lilia Serdiuk (61), is currently fighting COVID-19. She regrets not having listened to the calls to get vaccinated.

She said, "I didn’t believe it. I didn’t even want to see the news." As she lay down on her back in a narrow mattress, she spoke to The Associated Press. "This disease is real and it's very horrible. I wish that everyone would pay attention to the news and listen to the advice of doctors.

Doctors worry that the hospital will soon be full and will continue to receive more patients.

"What if there were more patients?" What happens if there isn't enough oxygen? "This is constant stress," explained doctor Tetiana Pasichnyk.

A black market has sprung up for fake vaccination certificates amid restrictions. The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zeleskyy presided over a meeting earlier in the week to discuss ways of fighting this illegal practice.

Denys Monastyrsky, Interior Minister, stated that 800 criminal cases have been opened by police regarding the use of these certificates. He also said that 100 mobile units were deployed by the ministry to locate their owners, who will face severe punishment.

He claimed that Nadiya Svchenko, a former lawmaker, had produced fake proof of vaccination when she returned to Ukraine on Friday.

According to police, they believe that 15 hospitals in the country were involved in issuing fake vaccination certificates.

Authorities have begun offering shots in shopping centers to encourage vaccination. As the number of infections rose, skeptical attitudes started to shift. In fact, in 24 hours, a record 270,000 people were vaccinated.

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