Health

Ukraine’s grueling drama: under threat from bomb blasts and COVID-19

People crowd into shelters and train platforms in the face of the Russian invasion.  An optimal breeding ground for the coronavirus (REUTERS / Gleb Garanich)
People crowd into shelters and train platforms in the face of the Russian invasion. An optimal breeding ground for the coronavirus (REUTERS / Gleb Garanich)

since 9 days ago, Ukraine does not have accurate statistics on the spread of the coronavirus in its territory and of the dead that the disease COVID-19 cause daily. 9 days ago it startedthe invasion of Russia over its territory and this affected the normal development of the fight against the pandemic in the attacked country.

One week after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, the World Health Organization (WHO) alerted that a significant increase in COVID-19 in Ukraine is very likely due to the war conflict.

“Before the conflict, Ukraine experienced a recent increase in COVID-19 cases. Low testing rates since the start of the conflict they mean that there is likely to be significant undetected transmission along with low vaccination coverage. This increases the risk that a large number of people will develop a serious illness,” said the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, which warned that it is very likely that there will be a significant increase in COVID-19 in Ukraine due to the armed conflict.

Ukrainian health personnel must continue to attend to cases of COVID-19 ( REUTERS / Gleb Garanich)
Ukrainian health personnel must continue to attend to cases of COVID-19 ( REUTERS / Gleb Garanich)

And added that the mass displacement of people will increase the transmission of COVID, which will also put greater pressure on health care systems in neighboring countries. Since the beginning of the invasion, more than a million displaced people have fled Ukraine.

the science writer alex knapp He stated in the last few hours that “history tells us that war is often a handmaiden of disease”. “And although both countries have seen a decline in cases since the peak of winter, the virus is still being transmitted at high levels. A prolonged conflict in the region threatens a humanitarian crisis not only due to bullets and bombs, but also due to a resurgence of COVID-19″, added this exquisite pen.

But how was Ukraine dealing with COVID-19 before the Russian invasion?

The evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic in Ukraine, until the fall of the last curve due to lack of data (OWID)
The evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic in Ukraine, until the fall of the last curve due to lack of data (OWID)

New SARS-CoV-2 infections were already increasing in Ukraine significantly in January and they peaked in early February. Since the invasion, cases have decreased, but this is probably due to a lack of testing, health experts say.

According data from Johns Hopkins University Ukraine adds almost 5 million cases and 105,500 deaths until the beginning of the war. It has 650,000 active cases and has 1,700 people hospitalized in intensive care.

The United Nations warned yesterday that the risk of another contagion of COVID-19 is growing as hundreds of thousands of people flee the Russian invasion. to the neighboring countries of Ukraine, a country that suffered a 555% increase in COVID cases, mainly driven by Omicron, in January and February, according to a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Europe has recorded more than 5.5 million COVID cases in the last week, 24% less than the previous week, according to WHO data. It also confirmed that more than 22,000 people have died from COVID in the past week in Europe.

A country with few vaccinated

Ukraine only reaches 35% of its population with two vaccines against COVID-19.  Their neighbors also do not reach great coverage numbers.  (OWID)
Ukraine only reaches 35% of its population with two vaccines against COVID-19. Their neighbors also do not reach great coverage numbers. (OWID)

Ukraine is one of the least vaccinated countries in Europe, according to monitoring by the University of Oxford, with only 35% of the population who received two doses of a vaccine.

Ukraine’s low vaccination levels and very low booster dose levels are just a perfect storm to see the rise in cases. This is quite concerning,” said Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, a professor of epidemiology and medicine at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

According to the expert, it also increases the concern that although “conflict likely to lead to another surge, untraceable as surveillance systems fall apart”. “Everything will be lost in the noise of war. Assuming hospitals can even track admission data, there will be a much larger influx of war-wounded people than COVID patients,” said Dr. Eric Toner, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

People crowd for hours waiting for a train in Lviv, Ukraine (Photo by Yuriy Dyachyshyn / AFP)
People crowd for hours waiting for a train in Lviv, Ukraine (Photo by Yuriy Dyachyshyn / AFP)

Only a third of Ukrainians have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the monitoring project Our World in Data from the University of Oxfordcompared to more than three-quarters of people in countries like France, Germany and Britain. “It is understandable that COVID is not the most important thing for anyone during an armed conflict. But having people in crowded subways, without real access to health services, is a terrible situation. Even the mildest cases of COVID can be very problematic if you don’t have a place to isolate/receive care, and/or if you need to flee on foot,” explained Rachel Silverman, a policy researcher at the Center for Global Development.

War is the best friend of infectious diseases. “Challenge every public health program you may have. It limits the medical care available to those who might be seriously ill and often encourages transmission when so many people crowd into bomb shelters and onto trains. This is going to be the perfect storm of one serious challenge after another.” Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

The WHO director-general said yesterday that he has authorized $3.5 million to buy and deliver medical supplies to Ukraine. “All parties must take the utmost care to ensure that health facilities, workers, patients, transportation and supplies are not targeted,” he said. But amid reports of increasingly aggressive Russian shelling of major cities, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has already tweeted accusations that Moscow is targeting the country’s hospitals despite “a still raging pandemic.”

A woman with her children seeks assistance upon arrival at the Nyugati railway station in Budapest.  (REUTERS/Marton Monus)
A woman with her children seeks assistance upon arrival at the Nyugati railway station in Budapest. (REUTERS/Marton Monus)

Many Ukrainians are now seeking refuge in neighboring Poland, which has waived its standard quarantine and coronavirus testing requirements for those refugees. Poland’s health minister also announced free coronavirus vaccinations for Ukrainians. But like Ukraine, Poland has had a severe COVID outbreak in recent weeks and its citizens are still behind in the required vaccination guidelines. About 59 percent of the population of Poland have received the full schedule of two vaccines and authorities say its health system is grappling with a major labor shortage that has sparked strikes and protests.

Jarno Habicht, the WHO representative in Ukraine, told reporters that he was concerned that the conflict set back months of progress in vaccinating Ukrainians while intensifying other regional health crises, such as the polio outbreak. “Russia’s invasion will have implications across the country,” he said, adding that his team was moving quickly to address a new set of health challenges: “Our priorities have shifted to trauma care, ensuring access to services, continuity of care, mental health and psychosocial support”.

The war brought sadness and fear to the people of Ukraine, that it was fighting with few weapons against the coronavirus pandemic. The final reflection of the writer Knapp serves to describe the current critical situation that Ukrainians are experiencing: “The sad reality is that the combination of large crowds and people rammed into train cars, all breathing the same air, is the ideal situation for spread of an airborne virus like COVID. If the invasion of Ukraine turns into a protracted battle, the destruction of health care infrastructure will be inevitable and all diseases will be more difficult to tackle, including COVID-19. It is often said that there are no winners in war, but it is clear that disease and illness benefit from human conflict.”

KEEP READING:

WHO warns of a possible increase in COVID-19 in Ukraine
Save the Children warned that the invasion of Ukraine could put thousands of children around the world at risk of famine.
At least one million people have fled Ukraine and are in refugee status in neighboring countries

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