COVID deaths in Eastern Europe surpass 1 mln

Coronavirus deaths in Eastern Europe topped 1 million on Thursday (December 31), as the Omicron variant threatened to batter the region.

The figures come from a Reuters tally, which also showed that three out of the five countries reporting the highest number of daily deaths in Europe are from the East.

They include Russia, Poland and Ukraine.

The tally also shows that although Eastern Europe makes up 39% of the region's population, it has reported more than half the total COVID-related deaths in Europe.

Relatively few cases of Omicron have been detected in Eastern Europe compared with Western Europe so far though, where daily cases have broken records.

Poland reported record high numbers of deaths in its fourth wave of the pandemic on Wednesday (December 29), though the figure may have been inflated by delayed reporting due to Christmas.

Warsaw office worker Marzena Lesniewska believes restrictions should only apply to the unvaccinated.

"We need to talk about our society as a whole. It's not just a matter of my own choice. I got vaccinated not just because I want to avoid getting seriously ill, but also in order to limit the transmission of the virus to other people. It's not just my freedom but the freedom of the whole society that should be taken into consideration."

A spokesperson for the College of Family Physicians in Poland has blamed the rising toll on an overloaded healthcare system, a lack of knowledge and a reluctance to get vaccinated compared to the West, including for the most vulnerable groups.

Russia has now overtaken Brazil to have the world's second-highest death toll globally from the pandemic.

It's now only behind the United States, data from Russia's state statistics service showed on Thursday (December 30).

The Czech Republic and Hungary top Eastern Europe's vaccination rates.

Nearly 64% of both countries' populations have received at least one shot.

Ukraine has the lowest rate, with nearly 33% of its residents receiving a single dose, according to Our World in Data.

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