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Ukraine Reaches 3 Million COVID-19 Cases Amid Vaccination Skepticism

A placard reading "Vaccination Kills" is seen at a rally against compulsory vaccination for some state employees and to demand the lifting of restrictions imposed by the authorities to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Kyiv on November 3.

The number of coronavirus infections in Ukraine has exceeded 3 million with more than 70,000 deaths, the Health Ministry said on November 4, as Eastern Europe continues to struggle with a surge in COVID-19 cases amid low inoculation rates prompted by vaccine skepticism and disinformation.

The ministry said it had registered a record daily high of 27,377 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, exceeding the previous high of 26,870 on October 29.

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The country of some 40 million people also reported 699 new coronavirus-related deaths.

Ukraine, one of Europe's poorest countries, has been hit by a huge rise in infections with the more contagious Delta variant.

The spike in new infections and deaths prompted authorities to implement strict restrictions and urge people to get vaccinated. But the tough restrictions have sparked protests.

More than 1,000 people rallied in central Kyiv on November 3. Demonstrators gathered near the parliament building and blocked roads, holding posters reading, "No to vaccination," "Say no to COVID passports," and, "Say no to COVID genocide."

No incidents were reported amid a strong police presence.

Only about 17 percent -- or 7.6 million people -- have been fully vaccinated with four available shots from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Sinovac.

Some Ukrainians prefer to pay for fake vaccination certificates, and police have opened hundreds of cases into false inoculation documents.

Vaccinations have become mandatory for some state employees, and in areas with high infection rates, such as Kyiv, only vaccinated people or those with negative COVID-19 test results are allowed into restaurants, gyms, and on public transport.

Last week, the government also started requiring proof of vaccination, recovery from infection, or negative COVID-19 tests for people boarding airplanes, trains, and long-distance buses.

'They Don't Believe COVID Exists': Ukraine Battles New Wave Of Virus, Public Misinformation
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Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko told RFE/RL this week that a large number of people are getting severely sick and that the capacity of hospitals is more than 80 percent full.

With hospitals reaching full capacity, the Health Ministry predicts that the greatest load on medical facilities will fall from mid-November until the beginning of next year.

Widespread vaccine skepticism has been blamed on a lack of trust in state institutions and on disinformation that spreads on social media.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy last week pleaded with Ukrainians to ignore fake news and get inoculated.

"Switch off social networks and turn on your brain," Zelenskiy said.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, AP, AFP, and Reuters
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