The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) cautioned Tuesday the threat of armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine is not the only concern on the horizon, pointing to rising coronavirus rates in Eastern Europe as the source of more worries.
The W.H.O. warned six nations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia have seen a rapid spread of coronavirus with their numbers of infections doubling over the last two weeks.
Despite Omicron being widely considered as a weaker variant compared to Delta, the W.H.O. has highlighted concerns about it spreading in 53 countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine having particularly concerned the W.H.O. – with 25,000 people dying of coronavirus in the 53-nation region, AP reports.
Dr Hans Kluge, the W.H.O.’s Regional Director for Europe suggested this spread was due to less vaccine uptake in the region, with less than 40 percent of people over age 60 in Ukraine, Bulgaria, Kyrgyzstan, Bosnia and Uzbekistan having completed a full course of coronavirus vaccines.
A couple, wearing a protective face mask, look out from a shop door showing a leaflet which reads as “Thanks for wearing the mask” in Kiev on October 28, 2021. ( Getty Images)
Kluge advised governments to “urgently” “examine the local reasons influencing lower vaccine demand and acceptance” and to “devise tailored interventions to increase vaccination rates”.
The W.H.O. European Regional Director also claimed that now was “not the moment to lift measures that we know work in reducing the spread of COVID-19”.
The news about increased infection rates in Ukraine and Russia comes as Putin has supposedly moved to de-escalate the tension he created in the region by claiming to have withdrawn some soldiers from the Ukrainian border on Tuesday, with Moscow stating the troops have “completed their tasks”, and concluded their military exercises.
Ukraine on Monday dismissed the Biden State Department’s withdrawal of the families of U.S. embassy staff in Kyiv as “premature.” https://t.co/6nyqLuyAi7
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) January 25, 2022
Moscow has maintained they are not currently interested in invading Ukraine with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov telling journalists that: “Sometimes [Putin] even jokes about it [invading Ukraine]. He asks us to check whether they [the West] have published the exact time that war will start”.
Despite this, military authorities in the United States are still claiming that Putin is planning to invade Ukraine, as early as 3 am on Wednesday.