Conditions on the ground in Ukraine will make it easier for Covid-19 to spread, Dr. Mike Ryan, director of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Program, said during a news briefing on Wednesday.
“Anytime you disrupt society like this and put literally millions of people on the move, then infectious diseases will exploit that,” Ryan said.
“People are packed together, they’re stressed, and they’m not eating, they’m not sleeping properly. They’re highly susceptible to the impacts, first of all being infected themselves. And it’s much more likely that disease will spread, ”he said.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the organization is “deeply concerned” about reports it has received about attacks on health care facilities and workers.
“We have received several unconfirmed reports of attacks on hospitals and health infrastructure, and one confirmed incident last week in which a hospital came under heavy weapons attack, killing four people and injuring 10, including six health workers. We are currently in the process of verifying several other incidents, ”he said.
“Attacks on health care are in violation of international humanitarian law,” Tedros said.
According to Johns Hopkins University data, Ukraine recorded a record high number of Covid-19 cases early last month, with over 45,000 reported on Feb. 4. And just about 34% of Ukraine’s population is fully vaccinated, according to JHU.
“There’s no doubt in this case, that the military operations, invasion, whatever you want to call it in Ukraine, is causing untold suffering to the people of Ukraine,” Ryan said. “WHO does not want to be drawn into the politics of that process.”
“From our perspective, we call on the parties, and particularly call on the government of Russia to reconsider its position in the light of the suffering that’s being generated in Ukraine,” he said.