LVIV – The number of individuals infected with COVID-19 has dramatically increased in Ukraine recently, according to the Ministry of Health of Ukraine.
The country’s health ministry recorded 19,120 new COVID-19 cases and 734 deaths on October 25. The latter number marks the largest daily mortality in the country since the pandemic began in Ukraine.
In response, the government implemented new quarantine restrictions for unvaccinated individuals in the country. Meanwhile, the daily number of individuals who have received a COVID-19 vaccine peaked on October 26, with some 291,000 people getting a vaccination shot.
The National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) said they want to see this number rise to 400,000 vaccinations per day to reduce mortality and avoid the collapse of the medical system.
The NSDC’s secretary, Oleksiy Danilov, warned that during the peak of the pandemic in Ukraine, the disease is likely to take more than 1,000 lives a day. The vast majority of people who die from COVID-19 in Ukraine are unvaccinated. As a result, Mr. Danilov said the country needs to vaccinate about 350,000-400,000 people per day, otherwise “we will have very, very difficult times.”
Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said last week that the country recorded the highest number of new patients with COVID-19. In total, 339,500 Ukrainians are now infected with COVID-19, and 45,674 hospital beds are occupied with patients who have the virus. He added that 33,551 people infected with the virus were hospitalized last week, the highest number since the pandemic began.
Ukraine has sought different ways to provide the vaccine, offering individuals vaccination shots in post offices and railway stations. Most residents in Ukraine’s cities have gotten vaccinated, and data from the health ministry show that the rates of mortality or severe illness in urban areas are significantly lower than in rural areas of the country. For example, the town of Morshyn in the Lviv region became famous for its vaccination rate, as 78 percent of residents there have been vaccinated, and the city has seen no COVID-19 hospitalizations or deaths in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government has implemented new restrictions on unvaccinated individuals: passengers are not allowed on trains and other interregional transport without a vaccination certificate or a negative COVID-19 test.
According to the government’s decree, representatives of certain professions (educators, officials of central executive bodies) need to be vaccinated if they do not work remotely. The list of specialists to be vaccinated will be expanded to include, in particular, employees of state-owned enterprises and critical infrastructure, Health Minister Viktor Liashko said.
“We will expand this list. The list of professions which require obligatory vaccination will include employees of state institutions, organizations, enterprises of critical areas for the economy of our country, as well as social workers and postmen,” Mr. Liashko said.
Most Ukrainian schools and higher education institutions have moved to distance learning, though exceptions were granted if school staff are vaccinated. Some Ukrainian schools have been on vacation, though many schools extended the break because of a surge in the pandemic, according to the Ministry of Education. The National Security and Defense Council also recommended that most schools take a vacation.
Visitors to restaurants, hotels, markets, cultural institutions, sports and other public facilities must show a negative COVID-19 test result or provide proof of vaccination before being allowed inside. The requirement applies to regions that have been classified in the highest “red” category of pandemic danger.
Leading research centers in developed countries, Western governments, and many Ukrainian scientists have said vaccination reduces the risk of severe illness and the likelihood of death from the disease.
Oleksandr Yabchanka, a lecturer at the Ukrainian Catholic University, an expert on healthcare reform and a former adviser to the head of the Ministry of Health, says there is a proven link between vaccination and the likelihood of contracting the virus and dying from COVID-19.
A vaccinated person is much less likely to get sick and 10 times less likely to die from an infection, Ms. Yabchanka said, citing vaccine trials and statistics from Western research centers.
“So these statistics eloquently show: get vaccinated if you want to reduce the risk of getting a severe case of the disease; get vaccinated if you want to survive,” Mr. Yabchanka said.
Mr. Liashko echoed that sentiment.
“There are no restrictions on access to the vaccine today. We have more than 10 million doses in the country. … Vaccinated people do not go to the intensive care unit. Today you can go to any hospital, and any medical worker will tell you that in reality in ‘coronavirus hospitals’ more than 97 percent of the people infected are unvaccinated. And for those who are intubated, all are unvaccinated,” Mr. Liashko said.
“We are constantly connecting new hospitals and increasing the number of doctors who engage in overcoming coronavirus. However, almost all of those individuals hospitalized with COVID-19 during the past week were unvaccinated. The numbers speak for themselves. Vaccinations save lives,” Mr. Shmyhal, the prime minister, said.
Mr. Shmyhal told regional administrators to ensure that the country’s immunization infrastructure capacity for vaccination reaches 1.5 million people per week.
“Business and public institutions can work even in the red zone if all visitors and employees are fully vaccinated. We do not plan to introduce a full lockdown across the country and stop the economy. But, as the president said this week, the only alternative to lockdown is mass vaccination. That is why I urge people not to wait for the red zones in their regions, but to go and get vaccinated now,” the prime minister said.
After introducing restrictions for non-vaccinated people, forgeries of COVID-19 vaccination certificates have increased recently. According to the minister of internal affairs, Denys Monastyrsky, individuals who make the fake certificates and citizens who use the forged documents are guilty of violating the law.
According to Mr. Monastyrsky, law enforcement officers have already opened more than 800 criminal proceedings regarding forged vaccination certificates. In the last week alone, more than 80 cases of forgery of vaccination documents and PCR test results have been recorded.
Prosecutor General of Ukraine Iryna Venediktova said that, based on evidence of falsification of test results and vaccination documents, 104 people were suspected of forging vaccination documents, while 88 of those were indicted in court.
“And this is just the beginning. Among the defendants were various fraudsters, doctors, representatives of laboratories, pharmacies, travel agencies, etc.,” Ms. Venediktova said.
Ukraine’s minister of digital transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, said that the fraudsters even created fake applications, similar to those found on the public service portal “Diia.” The fake applications allow individuals to edit vaccination data, age and other information to create fake digital COVID-19 certificates.
According to the Public Health Center of Ukraine, there were 22,574 new cases of COVID-19 on October 27. During a 24-hour period beginning on that day, 5,925 people were hospitalized in Ukraine, 692 people died and 11,593 people recovered. Since the beginning of the immunization campaign, 9,363,493 people in Ukraine received a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Public Health Center of Ukraine.