Ukraine sets virus death record for third day in a row



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Ukraine recorded a record number of coronavirus deaths for the third day in a row, authorities said on Thursday, as new infections also hit a record high.

The aging healthcare system of the former Soviet country is struggling to cope with contagion, and its COVID-19 vaccination campaign has made a stuttering start.

Health officials reported 16,669 new infections and 362 deaths, breaking previous records of 342 set on Wednesday and 333 a day earlier.

Health Minister Maksym Stepanov warned this week that the country “is entering a very difficult period”.

Over the weekend, the capital Kiev reintroduced restrictions to stem the spread of the virus, shutting down cultural venues and major shopping malls and restricting take-out restaurants.

President Volodymyr Zelensky has come under fire for his handling of the pandemic, with some critics saying systemic corruption is to blame for the government’s poor response.

Ukraine, one of the poorest countries in Europe with a population of 40 million, has already received 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca / Oxford vaccine produced in India and marketed under the name Covishield.

Thursday evening, the Ministry of Health announced that the first batch of 215,000 doses of the Chinese vaccine CoronaVac had arrived in the capital.

Ukraine has agreed to purchase nearly two million doses of the vaccine developed by China and also expects to receive eight million doses of Western-made vaccine under the UN-backed Covax program.

The country expected to receive its first shipment of CoronaVac doses earlier this month, but a Ukrainian middleman in charge of the delivery failed to deliver the vaccine according to the contract.

Ukrainian anti-corruption agencies last month launched an investigation into the purchase of vaccines after critics accused the health ministry of overestimating the cost of the vaccine developed by China.

Stepanov said on Thursday that delivery of the new supplies from Covishield was being delayed due to a “problem” in obtaining clearance from the Indian government.

Ukraine launched its vaccination campaign last month, later than many of its neighbors. To date, more than 150,000 people have received a first dose.

Since the start of the pandemic, the country has recorded more than 1.5 million coronavirus infections and more than 31,000 deaths.

Prime Minister Denys Shmygal last week warned of the possibility of another national lockdown and urged regional officials to impose tighter restrictions.

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