Ukraine’s separatist areas overwhelmed by soaring infections

International

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The Russia-backed separatist authorities in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday reported the largest spike in new coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic, saying the health care system has been overwhelmed.

The separatist authorities have asked Russia for more assistance, and a convoy is expected to deliver Russian vaccines, ventilators and other medical equipment on Thursday.

The health authorities in the Donetsk region of 2.2 million reported 1,005 new confirmed infections and 97 coronavirus deaths in the past 24 hours. The regional Health Department described the situation as “extremely tense,” saying it’s facing a shortage of hospital beds and oxygen.

“Despite the titanic efforts by medical workers, the number of patients with COVID-19 and pneumonia has overwhelmed the health care system’s potential,” the separatists said in a statement. “The situation is extremely tense and it’s exacerbating by the day.”

The local media reported that hospitals in Donetsk are also facing a shortage of medicines and protective gear.

The region, which has been running its own affairs with Russian political, economic and military support since declaring unilaterally independence in April 2014, has seen 5,578 confirmed virus deaths so far. Just about 10% of the population have received at least one dose of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine or its one-shot version, Sputnik Light.

The neighboring separatist region of Luhansk reported a similarly tense coronavirus situation, and its authorities shut down schools and imposed a strict lockdown starting Wednesday. The 1.4-million region has recorded a total of 1,708 virus deaths.

Ukraine’s health authorities say they can’t provide assistance to the eastern rebel regions because they don’t have access there.

The separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine erupted after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula following the ouster of the country’s Russia-leaning president. The fighting has killed more than 14,000 and devastated the regions that once formed the country’s industrial heartland.

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Read all AP stories on the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.

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