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As Russia continues its attacks in Ukraine, world health officials warn that “there will definitely be an increase in Covid-19”.

Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead for the World Health Organization on Covid-19, speaks during a recent interview. (Richard Juilliart/AFP/Getty Images)

Some activists in the region have already seen the disease spread.

“Some of our volunteers have been infected with Covid while helping to manage refugees at the border or in refugee centres. And because in Moldova and Ukraine the vax rate is so low, the pandemic is still relevant,” said Constanta Dohotaru, an activist involved in refugee protection. crisis in Moldova and working closely with the Moldovan government, told CNN.

The vaccination rate against Covid-19 in Moldova is around 29% and in Ukraine it is around 34%, according to Our World In Data.

At a press conference on Wednesday, World Health Organization officials also said that as the pandemic continues, the invasion of Russia will impact the spread of the coronavirus that causes Covid. -19.

“Unfortunately this virus will seize opportunities to continue to spread. As an organization we recognize that countries are in very different situations, they face different challenges. There are many movements and associated refugees to this crisis,” Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead on Covid-19, said on Wednesday.

Van Kerkhove added that the WHO will work with countries hosting refugees to ensure continued testing and vaccinations for Covid-19. It is estimated that more than 2 million people have fled war-torn Ukraine, most heading to Poland.

In a message posted on Twitter on Thursday, the WHO described the situation as “the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe for more than 75 years” and noted that it “is working closely with the authorities to meet the needs of refugees” and support the Ukrainian health system.

“Certainly there will be an increase in Covid-19 among the population in Ukraine, no doubt, because – no screening, no access to treatment, with vaccinations stopped and there is already low vaccination. I think about 34% or 35% pre-conflict vaccination rates,” said Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s health emergencies programme, during Wednesday’s briefing.

“So there are a lot of people who still remain vulnerable to infection,” Ryan said, but added that the world should be careful not to perpetuate harmful prejudices and stereotypes around refugees and Covid-19. 19.

“Let’s be very careful with our rhetoric, because it always comes back, that somehow people fleeing the horrors of war are going to bring things with them,” Ryan said in part. “Europe has a lot of Covid as it stands, and it needs to deal with it – and the Ukrainian refugees aren’t going to be a game changer on that.”

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