FILE: Doctor Petruta Filip and her colleague, place an oxygen mask onto a man at the COVID-19 area of the University Emergency Hospital, Bucharest. This was Friday, October 22nd, 2021. Although coronavirus death rates and vaccine rates are very low in Eastern Europe, politicians are hesitant to take the necessary measures to curb this virus. An earlier World Health Organization official stated that Europe has become the new epicenter for the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, File)
Via Associated Press

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — At the main hospital in Romania’s capital, the morgue ran out of space for the dead in recent days, and doctors in Bulgaria have suspended routine surgeries so they can tend to a surge in COVID-19 patients. The Serbian capital now has an additional day of operation at the graveyard to accommodate all bodies that arrive.

Two months ago, the stubbornness of the frog has been evident. wave of virus infectionsIt has devastated several countries in Central- and Eastern Europe. There, vaccination rates are lower than other parts of Europe. While doctors pleaded for tight restrictions, or even lockdowns for the virus to be stopped, leaders allowed the virus to spread unabated for many weeks.

“I don’t believe in measures. I don’t believe in the same measures that existed before the vaccines,” Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said last month as the Balkan nation sustained some of its worst daily death tolls of the pandemic. “Why do we have vaccines then?”

An official from the World Health Organization stated earlier in the month that Europe was once again the epicenter for the coronavirus pandemic. Several countries in Western Europe are affected by the coronavirus pandemic. are seeing spikes in infectionsIt is the nations of East which are causing fatalities. According to WHO, Romania, Bulgaria, and Balkan countries had the most per capita deaths in November’s first week.

Experts believe that leaders dither and that they failed to implement vaccinations and underfunded health systems were the main causes of the current outbreaks. Some are acting now — but many doctors say it took too long and is still not enough.

Numerous governments across the region face elections in coming weeks, which has made it difficult for them to compel people to get immunized or to impose popular lockdowns. This is even true in countries that were once Communist and where mandatory vaccinations were carried out without delay or in cases of pandemics.

But politicians’ failure to quickly heed the calls of the medical community has likely undermined an already weak trust in institutions in countries where corruption is widespread. In the larger distrust in authority, there has been a lot of misinformation on vaccines.

Serbia's Prime Minister Ana Brnabic gives a speech during the 75th anniversary celebrations of The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at UNESCO headquarters in Paris on November 12, 2021. (Photo by JULIEN DE ROSA / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JULIEN DE ROSA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Ana Brnabic, Serbian Prime Minister, delivers a speech on the occasion of 75 years celebrations by The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. This was held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, 12/11/2021. (Photo: JULIEN DE ROSA / POOL / AFP). (Photoby JULIEN DE ROSA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images).
JULIEN DE ROSA via Getty Images

These countries are now struggling to cope with the current surge, which has resulted in very few protections. Many countries around the globe have faced resistance to vaccines. However, Central and Eastern Europe has low vaccination rates in areas where there is no supply. Bulgaria and Romania both belong to the European Union. They have successfully vaccinated around 23% of their respective populations. Bosnia and Herzegovina only has 21% of its population fully vaccinated.

Referring to Romania’s slow response, physician and health statistician Octavian Jurma described his country as a “textbook example” of the “tragic consequences produced by a political takeover of the pandemic response.”

Leaders finally introduced a curfew this month, requiring people who don’t have a COVID pass — which shows proof of vaccination, recovery from the illness or a negative test — to stay at home from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. While infections are down slightly since then, there is still a lot of hospital beds.

The bodies of COVID-19 victims were piled up in a corridor at the Bucharest main hospital. There was not enough room for them in the morgue. With the help of a blanket, a part of a waiting area became an emergency room.

In Serbia, some hospitals are so swamped that they are only handling virus patients — leaving doctors to sue Brnabic, whose government faces elections in April.

“Since Brnabic said she doesn’t believe in measures, some 900 people have died,” Slavica Plavsic, a lung disease specialist, told N1 television on Oct. 21.

The prime minster has rejected that criticism, saying Thursday that she is proud of her government’s response.

According to Belgrade’s authorities, 65 burials per day are now the norm, up from 35-40 before the pandemic. Gravediggers now bury people on Sundays — which typically they didn’t — to handle the load.

There are not many mitigations in Hungary. Like Serbia’s, Hungary’s government says it would prefer to rely on vaccinations. With nearly 60% of people fully vaccinated, the country is better placed than most in the region — but that still leaves a large swath of the population unprotected.

Hungary’s government earlier this month ordered mask-wearing on public transportation and allowed private employers to mandate vaccines for their staff.

But Gyula Kincses, chairman of the Hungarian Chamber of Doctors, said that that was “too little, too late” and recommended that masks be made mandatory in all indoor spaces.

In a recent radio interview, Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whose populist party faces election next spring, said that mandatory vaccinations would “be beyond the limits of what Hungarians will accept,” even while acknowledging the new restrictions could only slow, not stop, the virus’s spread.

Due to the country’s low vaccine rate, hospitals in Bulgaria had to temporarily suspend any non-emergency procedures so that they could provide treatment for more COVID-19 cases.

“Politicians now think only about the elections, but there inevitably will be a lockdown, however in tragic circumstances,” Ivan Martinov, a leading cardiologist at Sofia’s main emergency hospital, told national radio. On Sunday, Parliamentary elections will be held.

In Croatia, where there were unusually long lines waiting to get vaccines recently, the rising incidences of infections may have served as a wakeup call.

Authorities said on Wednesday that more than 15,000 people received their first dose a day earlier — a significant jump after vaccinations all but halted in the Adriatic country of 4.2 million.

Recent weeks have seen the introduction of COVID passes by Slovenia and Croatia.

But medical organizations in Slovenia have warned that the Alpine country’s health system is still on the verge of collapse. The doctors urged people to try to stay away from urgent care for the next few months.

“There are traffic accidents, accidents at work, other infections,” gasped Bojana Baovic, head of Slovenia’s Medical Chamber. “This is an alarming situation that we can cope with through maximum solidarity.”


Stephen McGrath of the Associated Press in Bucharest Romania, Justin Spike from Budapest Hungary, Veselin Tshkov in Sofia Bulgaria, Karel Janicek from Prague were among those who contributed.


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