One year into pandemic: Ukraine records 1.2 million recoveries, over 27,000 deaths, and nearly 40,000 vaccinations

One year ago, the World Health Organization declared the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak a pandemic. Ukraine went through a series of lockdowns and related restrictions, had to meet the mounting demands for testing, and recently started the vaccine rollout. Now, as the country is grappling with the third wave of infections, let’s take a look at Ukraine’s coronavirus related figures, third wave forecasts, and the human rights situation in the pandemic, read on.         

Pandemic by the numbers. Ukraine now has the 17th-highest coronavirus case total in the world. By the daily number of infections, Ukraine ranks 11th (9,084 daily new cases recorded on March 10). 

Throughout the pandemic, the country has reported 1,438,468 COVID-19 cases, 1,214,876 recoveries, and 27,915 deaths. There are now 195,677 active cases.

On March 12, Ukraine recorded 12,946 new coronavirus cases, 4,630 recoveries, and 230 deaths. Hospitalized were 3,843 patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.  

Third wave begins in Ukraine. For several weeks in a row, daily new cases in Ukraine continue to soar, particularly in the West. Experts say Ukraine may be starting down a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic. They warn that the spring wave of COVID-19 can be more dangerous than the autumn uptick, becoming a national disaster. 

The third wave is to be driven by greater contagiousness and rapid spread, infectious disease experts predict. That can lead to a higher number of severe cases and deaths. 

“The spring wave of COVID-19 will have a higher case load and a more rapid uptick in cases than the autumn wave. It can become a national disaster,” said immunologist Volodymyr Halytskyi, research scientist at the Palladin Biochemistry Institute of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. 

The forecast is based on data collected across the countries in the Northern Hemisphere region throughout last spring and summer, and in the Southern Hemisphere countries collected throughout last summer and autumn.

Ivano-Frankivsk region has the most COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Ukraine. Over 84 per cent of hospital beds supplied with oxygen are filled up, said Deputy Health Minister Iryna Sadoviak at a daily press briefing of the Health Ministry, referring to the numbers of March 11. 

“As of January 1, 2021, there were 865 hospitalizations and 2,892 beds available, and the bed occupancy rate was 30 per cent. Today, of the total 4,176 beds available 3,523 are filled, and the bed occupancy rate is 84.4 per cent. That’s a fourfold increase in two months,” the Deputy Health Minister said.  

Vaccinations: sluggish rollout. Ukraine started COVID-19 vaccinations on February 24. On the first day, the vaccine shots were administered in the regions of Cherkasy, Vinnytsia, Zhytomyr, Kyiv, and Chernihiv, and everywhere else on the next day. In the first phase of vaccine distribution, immunized are healthcare workers working directly with COVID positive patients. They will get two shots of the vaccine.  

So far, Ukraine has received 500,000 doses of the Covishield vaccine, which is a different brand name of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine licensed and produced in India. As of March 12, Ukraine has administered 38,237 doses (including 8,859 the previous day). These are all first vaccine doses. 

Vaccines are in multi-dose vials, with 10 doses per vial. Covid vaccine vials need to be used within six hours once opened. Previously, remaining doses from an open vial were thrown away. 

To avoid that, the Health Ministry has created a waiting list for leftover doses. According to the plan, in the current phase of vaccine distribution, medics and military are immunized. Politicians, artists, journalists, war veterans, and leaders of religious communities were put on the waiting list for leftover doses in a move to strengthen confidence in vaccination.  

Human rights in the pandemic. The human rights situation in Ukraine continues to deteriorate due to the combat actions and the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported. While the security situation in eastern Ukraine considerably improved in the second half of 2020, a fresh UN report highlights a series of human rights violations across the country that are both related and not tied to the conflict. The report is based on the work of the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine and covers the period from August, 1, 2020 to January, 31, 2021. It was presented at Ukraine Crisis Media Center on March 11.

The report underscores that individuals that need to cross the contact line are most vulnerable to the consequences of the military conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic. The mission recorded a 96 per cent decrease from the previous year in the number of people that crossed the contact line in both directions during the reporting period. 

“People need to cross the contact line. Even during the pandemic people still have basic needs, the sick need to access essential medical care, families need to see each other, and older persons need to access their pensions. Everything should be done to facilitate civilians to cross the contact line safely in order to meet their needs and decrease the negative impact of the conflict on them,” Matilda Bogner, Head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine is quoted as saying.

Ukraine’s daily coronavirus cases, death toll and the vaccine doses administered do not include the numbers from the temporarily occupied territories in Donbas and Crimea. Data released by the occupation administrations cannot be verified and are not trusted.