COVID-19 pandemic in eastern Ukraine: a year in review
The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Ukraine was identified on 29 February 2020, signifying the start of the pandemic in the country. The pandemic reached the Government-controlled areas (GCA) of conflict-torn eastern Ukraine on 18 March, when the first case was registered in Donetska oblast. On 29 March, the first COVID-19 case was reported in the non-Government-controlled areas (NGCA) of Donetska oblast. Luhanska oblast (NGCA) followed shortly after, with the first case reported to have been registered on 31 March.
Starting from May 2020, the COVID-19 incidence rate almost doubled every month, reaching 1 million cases by the end of the year. Despite a decline between January and February 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic downward trend in Ukraine reversed at the end of February, returning to the higher COVID-19 incidence rate of late December 2020. In NGCA, according to open sources, the COVID-19 growth rate is between 2 and 5 per cent per week or 8 to 20 per cent per month, which is similar to eastern Ukraine (GCA). At the same time, the fatality rates in NGCA are higher than in GCA: 8-9 per cent compared with some 2 per cent in GCA. Unfortunately, the lack of consistently reliable NGCA data makes it harder to understand the development and scale of the impact of COVID-19.
One year after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Ukraine started a countrywide vaccination campaign with the Covishield vaccine (AstraZeneca’s vaccine produced in India) on 24 February 2021. As of 19 March, 92,713 people have received the first dose, with Donetska oblast (GCA) having the highest vaccination rate (5,044). In addition to the purchase of 21 to 25 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines announced by the Government of Ukraine, some 8 million doses will be donated through the COVAX facility supported by the United Nations. According to the Ministry of Health’s schedule, some 12.7 million of the most vulnerable prioritized for vaccination – 30 per cent of the total population of Ukraine – are expected to be vaccinated, including with COVAX vaccines, by December 2021. In NGCA, the vaccination campaign is reported to have started on 1 February 2021 with the Sputnik V vaccine. Since there is no consistent and reliable data on the NGCA’s vaccination rate, the pace of the vaccination campaign remains unknown.
Below is a COVID-19 timeline, which summarizes the pandemic’s leading events and developments in Ukraine.