Why so many Covid deaths in Eastern Europe?

Many countries in Eastern Europe are seeing a surge in Covid infection and mortality rates. More people died of Covid in Romania and Bulgaria on 19 October than in the rest of the EU combined, and Russia is registering over 1,000 deaths per day. Commentators paint a gloomy picture and seek to explain why the pandemic is out of control there despite adequate vaccine supplies.

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Fakti.bg (BG) /

Stubborn Bulgarians paying with their lives

Bulgarians are now paying dearly for their reluctance to follow rules and recommendations, comments Fakti.bg:

“It is a tragic fact that our last place in the EU in terms of vaccination coverage has automatically secured us the first place in terms of the number of deaths per million inhabitants. Every nation reaps what it sows. If we do not abide by measures and rules, ignore the achievements of civilisation, science and the opinion of professionals, we will have to pay a very high price, as a nation and as individuals and fаmilies.”

NV (UA) /

Free places only in the cemeteries

Physician Yevhen Komarovskiy describes in NV how serious the situation is in Ukraine:

“This beautiful autumn, ladies and gentlemen, will be the last for many. Please excuse the sentimentality. But the situation is, to put it mildly, horrendous. To point out that the hospitals are overcrowded is a major understatement. When MPs claim that there are still free beds in the hospitals, they are lying. There are still free places in the cemeteries, but not in the mortuaries. There is a queue there, with the corpses laid out on trolleys. ... And there is a new terrible problem: people have finally realised that they have to get vaccinated, but they can't get vaccinated because they have already bought a vaccination certificate.”

Delfi (LT) /

There are limits to personal freedom

Lithuania's anti-vaxxers invoke their individual freedoms - including the freedom to die. Columnist Rimvydas Valatka counters ironically in Delfi:

“Why not allow teachers suffering from open tuberculosis to work in daycare centres? Why are we restricting the rights of these sick people? Let cooks keep making pancakes despite salmonellosis! Let psychics, shamans and sorcerers heal people! ... Stop bullying drunk drivers by taking away their right to drive a Golf, lorry, train or school bus despite having a blood alcohol level of 0.3 percent! All the drivers want is to die freely. But the conservative dictatorship puts them behind bars and punishes them with heavy fines.”

Diena (LV) /

The psychology of anti-vaxxers

In Latvia, which has been in lockdown since Thursday, just under half of the population is fully vaccinated. Diena offers a breakdown of the vaccination trend:

“There are adults who could be vaccinated but don't want to get the jab. A psychological portrait of these people would be an interesting research topic for sociologists. But even without research, four arguments stand out: lack of trust in the effectiveness of vaccines or fear of the side effects. And the belief that their own constitution is so strong that vaccination is not necessary. ... Then there is another group which is opposed to vaccination on principle and displays hostility towards the government and all those who have been vaccinated.”

Libertatea (RO) /

Too many profit from the scaremongering

Libertatea identifies several reasons for the lacking momentum of the vaccination campaign in Romania:

“There's not only the Orthodox Church, which played a double game: on the one hand staging a pro-vaccination campaign in return for generous subsidies [for church buildings]; on the other hand shouting to the congregations that Satan was coming with the vaccine chip. There's also the journalists and celebrities who made money and boosted ratings by exploiting the panic of the population in prime time and stoking fears with harmful information. And there were also (many) irresponsible doctors. A whole battalion of lowlifes capitalised on the crisis.”

Mediafax (RO) /

Social disparity in vaccination

Perhaps compulsory vaccination would have been better to ensure that all sections of the population grasp the seriousness of the situation, Mediafax observes:

“When the infections and mortality rates rose again, the altruists got upset: 'How can that be, I've been wearing a mask all this time because of a few idiots, got vaccinated, stayed at home and respected the quarantine'. And the Internet was once again filled with the anger of those who are incensed about having to live alongside more frightened, angrier, poorer and less educated people. ... Those with unvaccinated IQs, in turn, exclaimed in surprise: 'If vaccination was so important, they would have made it compulsory'.”

Observador (PT) /

Putin is focused on other matters

The president bears much of the blame for the high number of Covid deaths in Russia, says Observador:

“If Putin were as committed to the fight against Covid-19 as he is to expanding his dictatorial power, the country would not be in such a catastrophic state of health. ... With all the resources Russia has, the situation could be much better. But the problem is Vladimir Putin and his priorities. They would be very different if the Russian dictator focused on taking care of his fellow citizens' health rather than persecuting journalists and opposition figures, frittering away billions of euros on arms and sinking just as large sums into the swamp of corruption.”

Dnevnik (BG) /

A deadly combination

The number of cases in Bulgaria is also rising rapidly while the vaccination rate is just 20 percent. Virologist Radostina Aleksandrova sounds the alarm in Dnevnik:

“We are in a kind of Bermuda Triangle. Firstly, we have the Delta variant, which spreads much faster, with the risk of those infected being hospitalised doubling. Secondly, we have an extremely low number of vaccinated people in our country. And thirdly, there is a lack of staff in the hospitals, which even government measures cannot compensate for. And the fact that we've been stuck in an election campaign for six months doesn't help either.”

Novi list (HR) /

Up the pressure on the unvaccinated

The only alternative is to increase the pressure to vaccinate, argues Novi list:

“No liberal government can stop the new Covid-19 wave without imposing sanctions on the unvaccinated. Whether you call them motivational campaigns or by their proper name - restrictive measures - the fact is that the only way to stop a new wave is with a new wave of vaccination. ... The general economic situation shows that the world's economy would not be able to cope with a new, major third lockdown and the resulting global slump. So no matter how much they may want to, governments simply cannot be so liberal towards their citizens anymore. Measures must be more strictly calibrated.”