Romania on Tuesday hit daily records in both COVID-19 infections and deaths as the country faces an acute virus surge amid alarmingly low vaccination rates.
Authorities confirmed a record high of 18,863 new infections and 574 deaths in one day. It was the first time the European Union nation of 19 million surpassed 500 deaths in a single day.
Romania has the second-lowest vaccination rate in the EU behind Bulgaria — with just 34% of adults fully inoculated against COVID-19, compared to the bloc average of 74%.
The surge is stretching the country’s ailing health care system to maximum capacity: more than 1,800 coronavirus patients are now in intensive care. In Bucharest, ambulances have been queuing outside the Matei Bals Infectious Diseases Hospital where beds are being set up in corridors.
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis called the situation a “national drama of terrible proportions” and urged Romanians to get vaccinated.
He told in a press conference Tuesday that the “lack of concrete action on the part of the authorities is alarming” and said he has convened a meeting with government officials on Wednesday to “establish clear, restrictive measures.”
“There are 574 hearts of Romanians that stopped beating because they lost the fight with this deadly virus,” Iohannis said. “People who, just a few weeks ago, enjoyed life, dreamed and made plans for the future — (and) now leave behind the tears and despair of those who mourn their death.”
Death rate among world's highest
Romania has recorded one of the highest per capita COVID-19 death rates, according to Our World In Data.
The EU member state has now registered 18.2 fatalities per one million of the population, second only to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
European Union countries have been helping by sending COVID-19 drugs and equipment, which is facing a surge in infections largely among the unvaccinated majority of the adult population.
Under a third of Romania's adult population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Our World In Data.
The Europe office of the World Health Organization (WHO) has said it is increasing its support to Romania following the increase in cases.
A senior expert will be sent to help strengthen the country's response to the pandemic, alongside 34,000 rapid COVID tests and around 200 oxygen concentrators.
This technical support will cover "surveillance, clinical guidance, risk communications, and community engagement to vaccine roll-out", WHO Europe said in a statement.
New lockdowns elsewhere in Europe
In Latvia, authorities have imposed a new 30-day lockdown restriction due to the worsening coronavirus situation.
Most schools, restaurants, and entertainment venues will be closed for nearly a month from Thursday, while a nighttime curfew will also be in place until November 15.
Following an emergency government meeting, Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš said that drastic measures are needed as the pandemic continues to spread quickly.
The Centre for Disease Prevention and Control of Latvia said that the country’s COVID-19 incidence rate per 100,000 population stands now at 864, currently among the highest in the world.
Just over half of Latvians are now fully vaccinated, and Kariņš admitted that his government had failed to sufficiently encourage citizens to get jabs.
Meanwhile, in Slovenia, Prime Minister Janez Janša has blamed a rise in COVID-19 infections on recent protests against vaccinations and coronavirus restrictions.
Russia and Ukraine set grim new records
Russia registered another daily record of coronavirus deaths on Tuesday as rapidly surging contagion raised pressure on the country’s health care system.
The government task force reported 1,015 coronavirus deaths over the past 24 hours, the highest number since the start of the pandemic.
It also registered 33,740 new infections over the past day.
The daily coronavirus mortality numbers have been surging for weeks amid sluggish vaccination rates and the government’s reluctance to toughen restrictions.
Neighbouring Ukraine has also recorded a record number of daily deaths due to COVID-19.
According to the government's report, 538 people have died from the coronavirus in the past 24 hours.
Kyiv also registered 15,579 new infections on Tuesday, as well as 2,852 new hospitalisations.
Since the start of the pandemic, more than 61,000 people have officially died from the virus in Ukraine. The country, with a population of about 45 million, is proportionally one of the most bereaved in Europe.
Vaccination rates have been very slow in Ukraine as well due to a lack of supply, but also high levels of reluctance and scepticism.