By Pavel Polityuk and Valentyn Ogirenko
KYIV (Reuters) -People in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv queued in their hundreds for COVID-19 vaccinations on Thursday after a surge in daily cases and related deaths past previous highs led authorities to tighten pandemic restrictions.
Some 22,415 new infections were registered over the 24 hours to Thursday, exceeding the previous record of 20,341 on April 3. Health ministry data also showed there were 546 new deaths, more than the Oct. 19 high of 538.
Coronavirus cases among Ukraine’s population of 41 million have been climbing for weeks, prompting the government to tighten curbs last month.
Vaccinations have been made compulsory for state and local government employees such as teachers and unvaccinated people are restricted from visiting restaurants and sporting and other public events.
The western city of Lviv beefed up curbs earlier this month and has said it may do so again, while the mayor of Kyiv said on Thursday the city would enter the “red” danger zone this week and that appropriate restrictive measures would be introduced.
One young couple told Reuters after receiving their first shots that vaccination would allow them to work.
“Since it gets compulsory, we have no choice not to do it. Otherwise, we would not do it,” Vladyslav, 24, said.
Asked about the high level of infections and deaths, 23-year-old Mariya said: “People do not wear masks, do not use antiseptics. And that’s why get infected.”
Despite the lines in Kyiv, Ukraine’s overall vaccination level remains low. Government data shows around 8.4 Ukrainians have received a first shot, while 6.7 million are fully vaccinated.
To speed up the process, the authorities have opened hundreds of vaccination points, including at train stations, after unvaccinated people were banned from long-distance travel.
Ukraine’s pandemic tally of infections stands at 2.7 million, with 62,389 deaths.
(Aditional reporting by Margaryta Chornokondratenko; Editing by Catherine Evans)