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World

Ukraine PM warns of new lockdown as virus cases surge

  • Ukraine has recorded over 1.3 million infections and more than 26,000 deaths from the virus since the pandemic began.
04 Mar, 2021

KIEV: Ukraine's Prime Minister Denys Shmygal warned Thursday of a new national lockdown, as coronavirus cases surge and the country's vaccination drive gets off to a sputtering start.

The ex-Soviet country with a creaking healthcare system recorded more than 10,000 new virus infections in the past 24 hours, a high since the end of January.

The wave of new cases began surging earlier in the week, with 3,486 people hospitalised Tuesday -- a single-day record since the start of the pandemic.

At a press conference in Kiev Thursday the prime minister warned that if the situation continues "we will have to return to the introduction of a lockdown that we had earlier".

"I really wouldn't like that: I understand that society is exhausted," Shmygal said.

"Unfortunately, we need to admit that the third wave of the pandemic has begun in Ukraine," he added.

Current epidemiological restrictions in Ukraine dictate that theatres operate at 50-percent capacity, bars and restaurants close at midnight and masks are worn in public places.

Also on Thursday, Ukraine's leading Institute of Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases confirmed that two cases of the highly contagious British strain of the coronavirus have been detected in the west of the country.

"The strain has been brought in. This is just the beginning," the head of the institute's respiratory and viral infections department, Alla Mironenko, told AFP.

In the western city of Ivano-Frankivsk, "hospitals are full" and "people lie in corridors", local healthcare official Maria Boyko said Tuesday at a city council meeting, according to video published by the mayor's office.

"Given the situation, we got out all the beds, even those old and written off," she said.

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

Ukraine has so far received only 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine for its population of 40 million.

In the first eight days of its jab drive, around 9,500 people received a first dose, the health ministry said.

Ukraine has recorded over 1.3 million infections and more than 26,000 deaths from the virus since the pandemic began

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