Ukraine records 50% spike in coronavirus cases

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Kiev, Ukraine (AP) – Ukraine on Thursday recorded a 50% increase in new daily COVID-19 infections, a day after authorities launched the country’s vaccination campaign.

Health Minister Maxim Stepanov said 8,147 new confirmed infections had been recorded in the past 24 hours, up from 5,424 a day earlier. He did not speculate on the cause of the spike, but said the country had so far failed to detect the presence of Britain’s most contagious variant of the virus.

The outbreak is alarming for the country whose understaffed medical system is already struggling to treat patients with COVID-19, especially in hard-hit western regions where cases have increased dramatically after a lockdown of two weeks in January.

Ukraine launched its vaccination campaign on Wednesday after receiving 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine made in India.

Ukraine expects to receive more doses of the vaccine under the UN-backed COVAX distribution program, including those produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Novavax. The country also signed an agreement to buy 1.9 million doses from Chinese company Sinovac Biotech.

Ukraine plans to vaccinate 14.4 million people this year, or about 35% of its 41 million people.

Across the pandemic, Ukraine has recorded more than 1.3 million infections and 25,596 deaths.

The number of coronavirus deaths at the Ivano-Frankivsk City Regional Hospital, 430 kilometers (270 miles) southwest of the capital, Kiev, has doubled in the past two weeks, the department head of pathology from Volodymyr Vasylyk Hospital told The Associated Press.

In the past 24 hours alone, 10 people have died from COVID-19 in hospital, up from five or six a day two weeks ago.

Six of the doctors at the hospital have the virus and one doctor has died.

“The situation is quite tense,” Vasylyk said.

“I hope the vaccination will reduce the surge in morbidity and mortality,” Vasilyk added.

But opinion polls show that around 40% of Ukrainians refuse to be vaccinated.

“Even many employees of our hospital are afraid of being vaccinated, but we are doing explanatory work,” said Serhiy Tsyntar, chief medical officer of the regional hospital in the city of Chernivtsi, 400 kilometers south. west of Kiev. “Only 30% of the staff want to be vaccinated.”

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Mstyslav Chernov in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, contributed to this story.

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Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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