The World Health Organization said on Wednesday that the ongoing invasion by Russian forces in Ukraine will allow COVID-19 to spread easily across the country, telling health officials that the situation will lead to many undetected cases. as attacks are carried out on health facilities.
“You’re disrupting society like this and literally millions of people on the move, so infectious diseases will exploit that,” Mike Ryan, director of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Programme, said during a briefing. briefing.
“(People are) very sensitive to the impacts of, first of all, being infected themselves, and the disease is much more likely to spread,” Ryan added.
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Ukraine has just experienced one of its worst waves of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to WHO data. On February 4, a record 43,778 positive cases were reported, and although cases have continuously declined since then, the crisis could lead to the virus spreading easily with no tests available. Only 34% of the country’s population is fully vaccinated, according to WHO data.
“Low testing rates since the start of the conflict mean that there is likely to be significant undetected transmission. Coupled with low vaccination coverage, this increases the risk that large numbers of people will develop serious illnesses,” said said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. .
He added that the organization is “deeply concerned about the unfolding humanitarian emergency”, saying it has heard of several unconfirmed reports of attacks on hospitals and other health care facilities, including an attack confirmed from a hospital that left four dead and 10 injured. .
The attacks add further pressure on healthcare workers to care for both COVID-19 patients and those injured during the conflict.
“The sanctity and neutrality of health care, including health workers, patient supplies, transport and facilities, as well as the right to safe access to care, must be respected and protected. Attacks on health care violate international humanitarian law,” Ghebreyesus said.
The organization said medical supplies in some places like Ukraine’s capital Kyiv are inaccessible, and it is sending $5.2 million worth of emergency supplies to Poland for Ukrainian refugees, and hopes that efforts can be made to send them to those in Ukraine.
Additionally, Ghebreyesus said three major oxygen plants in Ukraine are closed, so the organization is trying to find ways to deliver it to the country.
“You can’t wait until tomorrow for oxygen. You can’t wait until next week, you can’t be put on a waiting list for oxygen, you can wait in line for oxygen. Oxygen is saving your life right now. And when you need it, you need it,” said Bruce Aylward, a WHO official. “It’s a very clear example that if we don’t don’t get oxygen into the system and other critical drugs, people will die, needlessly.”
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