World

Eastern Europe lags behind in vaccination, hits 20 million Covid cases

Countries in the region have lowest vaccination rates in Europe

BUDAPEST: The number of coronavirus infections recorded so far in eastern Europe surpassed 20 million yesterday, according to a Reuters tally.

The region is grappling with its worst outbreak since the pandemic began, as 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 62 per cent of its population having got at least one shot, whereas Ukraine has given just 19 per cent 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, Reuters data showed.

Although it has just 4 per cent of the world's population, eastern Europe accounts for roughly 20 per cent of all new cases reported globally.

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

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 last week.

REGRET

As the wave of infections intensifies, many people in eastern Europe are torn between defiance and regret over not getting 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 with a bloc average of 18 per cent.

More than 40 per cent of all new cases reported in eastern Europe were in Russia, with 120 people testing positive every five minutes, according to a Reuters analysis.

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

Slovakia reported 3,480 new cases on Oct 19, its highest daily tally since March, health ministry data showed on Wednesday. In Romania, hospitals are stretched to breaking point, with emergency beds fully occupied across the country. Morgues were also running at full capacity.

The country reported record numbers of daily fatalities and infections on Tuesday. The virus was killing one person every five minutes on average this month.

Ukraine registered a record daily high of new infections and related deaths for a second consecutive day on Friday. It also extended a state of emergency that allows the authorities to impose curbs until year-end to rein in infections. - REUTERS

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