The pace of vaccination has more than doubled in Romania after the country recorded its highest daily COVID-19 death toll since the beginning of the pandemic.
Romanian authorities announced on October 19 that 574 people had lost their lives to COVID-19 over the previous 24 hours — a record for the country of 19.3 million inhabitants.
The number of new infections — 18,863 — also represented a pandemic high.
On that day, just 36,826 people received a first dose of the vaccine, 7,863 their second, and 24,052 were given their booster shot for a total of 68,749 doses administered.
Since then, the number of vaccinations has steadily increased to reach more than 150,600 shots on Tuesday. These included 111,033 first doses, with second and booster shots totalling 11,653 and 27,971 respectively.
Romania has the second-lowest vaccination rate in the European Union after Bulgaria with just 37% of adults now fully vaccinated. The EU's average is 75%.
"We were already expecting this increase in the number of people being vaccinated in recent days, as the decrease we saw in the summer was mainly due to an extremely good epidemiological situation, given that, for example, we had one case of infection per day in the capital, which also allowed the adoption of progressive relaxation measures," Andrei Baciu, Secretary of State at Romania's health ministry told Euronews.
"Thus, people who are aware of the benefits of vaccination did not see the danger of imminent infection, a danger that unfortunately has now reappeared and with the recurrence of the danger, obviously, all those who are aware of the protective effects of the vaccine decide to get vaccinated with impressive numbers, as we see in the latest records," he added.
The surge in infections and hospitalisations is once more stretching the country's weak health system to the limit with the vast majority of deaths and hospitalisations affecting unvaccinated people.
Raed Arafat, the country's Secretary of State for Internal Affairs told reporters on Tuesday that of the 301 fatalities deplored over the previous 24 hours, 272 were unvaccinated with 28 of the 29 vaccinated people who lost their lives presenting comorbidities.
Faced with a deteriorating situation, Bucharest activated the EU's Civil Protection Mechanism earlier this month with several member states including Austria, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, and Poland sending intensive care medicines, ventilators, oxygen concentrators and other medical equipment and accessories.
Neighbouring Moldova and Serbia also sent in assistance.
New restrictions were also rolled out on Friday including the requirement to produce a vaccination certificate to access most leisure venues.
Baciu noted that vaccination rates are lower in rural areas, where 47% of the population live and said the government "will intensify communication and vaccination actions" in the countryside to boost numbers.
Baciu stressed however that "a major impact on vaccination reluctance has been fake news".
"Combating misinformation is certainly a challenge that we are trying to overcome in partnership with experts from WHO, UNICEF, and the EU," he continued.