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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Thursday

The slow pace of vaccinations in Eastern Europe is rooted in several factors, including public distrust and past experience with other vaccines.

COVID-19 surging in Ukraine, other parts of Eastern Europe and Russia

A patient suffering from COVID-19 receives oxygen support at the intensive care unit of the City Clinical Hospital Number 3 in Kyiv on Tuesday. (Stanislav Kozliuk/Reuters)

The latest:

Ukraine is suffering through a surge in coronavirus infections, along with other parts of Eastern Europe and Russia. While vaccines are plentiful, there is a widespread reluctance to get them in many countries — though notable exceptions include the Baltic nations, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Hungary.

The slow pace of vaccinations in Eastern Europe is rooted in several factors, including public distrust and past experience with other vaccines, said Catherine Smallwood, the World Health Organization's Europe COVID-19 incident manager.

"We're seeing low vaccine uptake in a whole swath of countries across that part of the region," she told The Associated Press. "Historical issues around vaccines come into play. In some countries, the whole vaccine issue is politicized."

Russia on Thursday recorded 1,159 deaths in 24 hours — its largest daily toll since the pandemic began — with only about a third of the country's nearly 146 million people fully vaccinated. The Kremlin ordered a national non-working period starting this week and lasting until Nov. 7.

A medical specialist tends to a patient suffering from COVID-19 at a hospital in Oryol, Russia, earlier this week. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

An official in Hungary announced Thursday that private companies can require that employees get vaccinated to work, a measure that could boost in the nation's stagnant vaccination rate. Government employees, including teachers, will also be required to vaccinate, the official said.

Poland on Thursday reported the highest number of daily new infections since May at over 8,000.

In Ukraine, only 16 per cent of the adult population is fully vaccinated — the second-lowest share in Europe after Armenia's rate of slightly over seven per cent.

Authorities in Ukraine are requiring teachers, government employees and other workers to get fully vaccinated by Nov. 8 or face a suspension in pay. In addition, proof of vaccination or a negative test is now needed to board planes, trains and long-distance buses.

This has created a booming black market in counterfeit documents. Fake vaccination certificates sell for the equivalent of $100 to $300 US. There's even a phony version of the government's digital app, with bogus certificates already installed, said Mykhailo Fedorov, minister for digital transformation.

Kyiv mayor Vitaly Klitschko on Thursday announced new restrictions in the capital to stem the virus's spread. Beginning Nov. 1, restaurants, shopping centres and gyms will be closed and public transport limited to those who can show proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test.

Ukraine's low vaccination rate has led to the rapid spread of COVID-19, putting new stress on the country's already overworked health-care system.

The hospital surgical ward in the town of Biliaivka, near the Black Sea port of Odessa, is now treating only coronavirus patients, with 50 of its 52 beds filled. Drugs and oxygen are in short supply.

"We are on the verge of catastrophe, pushed by aggressive opponents of vaccination and the lack of funds," said Dr. Serhiy Shvets, the head of the ward.

The situation looks similar at a 120-bed hospital in the western city of Chernivtsi, where Dr. Olha Kobevko says she has 126 patients in grave condition.

"I'm weeping in despair when I see that 99 per cent of patients in serious condition with COVID-19 are unvaccinated, and those people could have protected themselves," the infectious disease specialist told AP. 

Truck driver Andriy Melnik never took the coronavirus seriously. With a friend, he bought a fake vaccination certificate so his travel documents would appear in order when he hauled cargo to other parts of Europe.

His view changed after the friend caught COVID-19 and ended up in an intensive care unit on a ventilator.

"It's not a tall tale. I see that this disease kills, and strong immunity wouldn't be enough — only a vaccine can offer protection," said Melnik, 42, as he waited in Kyiv to get his shot.

"I'm really scared and I'm pleading with doctors to help me correct my mistake."

-From The Associated Press, last updated 3:49 p.m. ET


What's happening across Canada

WATCH | Communities work to get parents on board with COVID-19 vaccines for kids: 

Communities work to get parents on board with COVID-19 vaccines for kids

1 month ago
Duration 2:05
Community groups are using some of the lessons they learned in overcoming COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in adults to help parents on board with vaccinating their children. 2:05

What's happening around the world

WATCH | U.S. FDA adviser confident in vaccine for children: 

U.S. FDA adviser confident in vaccine for children

1 month ago
Duration 8:18
A member of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on pediatric use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine talks to the CBC's Heather Hiscox about why she recommended emergency use authorization of the vaccine. 'I'm feeling very good about this step,' said Dr. Oveta Fuller. 8:18

As of Thursday afternoon, more than 245 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to the case tracking tool published by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.9 million.

In the Americas, COVID-19 is slowly retreating across most of North, Central and South America, the Pan American Health Organization said, reporting that last week the region's death and infection figures were the lowest in over a year.

Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE said on Thursday they expect to deliver 50 million more doses of their COVID-19 vaccine to the U.S. government by the end of April, as the country prepares for vaccinating children.

Health-care workers board a boat with coolers containing doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine as part of a door-to-door vaccination campaign aimed at Lake Titicaca residents, in Puno, Peru, on Wednesday. (Martin Mejia/The Associated Press)

In the Asia-Pacific region, Singapore's health ministry said it is looking into an "unusual surge" in infections after the city-state reported 5,324 new cases of COVID-19, the most since the beginning of the pandemic, while intensive care beds were filling up.

In Africa, African health officials and the United Nations are warning of a looming shortage of up to two billion syringes for mainly low- and middle-income countries around the world as the supply of COVID-19 vaccine doses rises, and routine vaccinations could be affected, too.

UNICEF, the UN children's agency, says it is not anticipating a significant supply shortage of the more standard syringes used in high-income countries. The threatened shortage comes as the flow of COVID-19 doses increases after months of delays to the African continent. It is the world's least protected region, with less than six per cent of the population of 1.3 billion people fully vaccinated.

In the Middle East, Iran on Wednesday reported 10,644 new cases of COVID-19 and 197 additional deaths.

In Europe, thousands of restaurant owners, chefs, waiters and bartenders took to the streets Thursday in cities across Bulgaria to protest the government's decision to impose a mandatory COVID-19 health pass on all people seeking to enter indoor entertainment venues. Restaurant associations claimed that in the first two days of the new requirement, restaurant attendance dropped 80 per cent nationwide. Bulgaria is facing a surge in COVID-19 infections and deaths amid one of the lowest vaccination rates in the 27-nation European Union.

Demonstrators carry Bulgarian flags during a national protest of restaurant owners, chefs, waiters and bartenders, against the government's vaccine mandate, in Sofia, Bulgaria, on Thursday. (Valentina Petrova/The Associated Press)

-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 3:30 p.m. ET

With files from The Associated Press and CBC News

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