Battle against Covid-19 takes a hit with fighting in Ukraine

Ukraine saw the seven-day average of new cases per million people rise from 103.55 on Jan 1 to an all-time high of 860.62 on Feb 10, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

The intense fighting that has broken out between Russia and Ukraine could not come at a worse time for the battle against Covid-19 in both countries, with data showing that their efforts are faltering.

An analysis of data gathered by the Our World In Data website indicated that the incidence of the disease - as measured by the seven-day average of daily new Covid-19 cases per million people - has been steadily rising and hit record levels in both countries this month.

Ukraine saw the seven-day average of new cases per million people rise from 103.55 on Jan 1 to an all-time high of 860.62 on Feb 10.

While it has since declined to 615.18 cases per million people as at Thursday (Feb 24), Ukrainian Ambassador to Singapore Kateryna Zelenko told The Straits Times that clamping down on Covid-19 remains a challenge.

"There is a high incidence of coronavirus infections in Ukraine. Vaccination is an urgent issue and we are in a good way with that. At least half of the Ukrainian population has already been vaccinated," Ms Zelenko said in an interview with The Straits Times on Wednesday.

"At the initial stage of vaccination, an active information campaign was under way to educate the population about the safety of vaccines and to persuade people to get vaccinated. So as for now, we see that we are on a good path and we can ensure that very soon, we will not see such high numbers of new infections in Ukraine.

"However, everyone should realise that the security and safety of one person is crucial to the safety of all people in the environment. We still understand that we need to move forward with the vaccination process, and there are already good prospects for achieving good results, and so we are currently working on it," Ms Zelenko said.

A similar worrying pattern on Covid-19 infections is seen in Russia. The seven-day rolling average of daily cases per million people shot up from 147.14 on Jan 1 to an all-time high of 1,293.33 on Feb 15. It stood at 1,050.78 on Thursday.

Russia has been one of the worst-hit countries during the pandemic. It has recorded more than 15.8 million cases and the official death toll is 342,397. Around 28 per cent of those cases, or 4.5 million, and 19,601 deaths occurred in the last 28 days alone.

Ukraine has not fared very well either: The country of 44 million people is currently ranked 20th in a Johns Hopkins University tally of the nations that are witnessing the highest rates of Covid-19 transmission as at Saturday.

The country has seen more than five million cases and 112,459 deaths so far in the pandemic. Of this, nearly a fifth of the total cases and nearly 6,000 deaths occurred in the past 28 days, driven by the highly transmissible but less severe Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Russia appears to be better placed in curbing infections if vaccination data is taken into account.

The country has managed to fully vaccinate 49 per cent of its population, compared with just 37.3 per cent in Ukraine, according to Bloomberg's Vaccine Tracker.

Scientific evidence has shown that vaccination significantly reduces the chances of serious illness, hospitalisation and death in case of an infection.

Efforts to curb Covid-19 in Ukraine will, no doubt, also be hampered by the Russian invasion of the country this week.

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