Ukraine faces threats from COVID-19 that surged anew amid the Russian military operation against the country.
In a press briefing Friday, Ihor Kuzin, the chief state sanitary doctor and deputy minister of health of Ukraine, said at least 3,100 new coronavirus cases were recorded in the country in a span of one week.
The ongoing outbreak has left 42 Ukrainians dead, of which 80% were aged 60 and above, according to Ukraine’s health ministry.
Kuzin noted that the increase in COVID-19 cases was related to seasonal elements, as Ukraine is in the middle of the winter season.
“We are seeing a gradual increase in the number of new cases, and this is related to certain seasonal elements. Such an increase in infection will be observed until the middle, maybe until the end of February, and we expect to record the first signs of a drop in infection starting in May,” Kuzin said, according to the Ukraine Media Center. “Such seasonality was observed during all past waves. In general, this year is no different.”
But the Ukrainian deputy health minister expressed concern that the current coronavirus infection rate is higher among children.
Kuzin said 267 of the cases recorded last week were Ukrainian children.
Kuzin also noted that hospitalizations have slightly increased, at 2,400 to 2,500 people per week.
Since the beginning of 2023, the Ukrainian health ministry has recorded between 12,000 and 15,000 hospitalizations and 140 to 180 fatalities from the virus.
Amid the COVID-19 surge and the raging war with Russia, Ukraine is still vaccinating its citizens.
Kuzin said vaccinations are still ongoing all over the country, except for territories with “active hostilities” and regions where the “security situation did not allow” vaccinations.
But the Russian-led war affected Ukraine’s immunization infrastructure, which was reduced by almost two-thirds, leading to fewer vaccination centers open to accommodate Ukrainians, according to Kuzin.
Ukraine currently has almost 8.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, including Coronavac, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, Kuzin said. These include vaccines for children.
Kuzin stated that the health ministry had revised its methods for storing the vaccines because of the frequent blackouts caused by Russian strikes.
Ukraine’s health ministry now mainly stores the vaccines in large institutions, where a backup power supply is provided.
Kuzin added that any batch of vaccines that is stored improperly would be disposed and that they are using repurposed equipment in vaccination centers to preserve the vaccines longer.
Like Ukraine, other countries worldwide are still battling the coronavirus, with the World Health Organization (WHO) saying that COVID-19 remains a “global health emergency,” CNN reported.
More than three years after the coronavirus was first detected, the WHO said it is keeping its declaration of a public health emergency of international concern for COVID-19.
But the international health organization noted that the pandemic is now at a “transition point” and that the world is in the best position to beat the disease thanks to improved diagnostics and the availability of vaccines and treatments.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged countries to incorporate vaccination against COVID-19 into routine care and to maintain a strong healthcare system to avoid a “panic-neglect cycle.”