Romanian doctors sent an open letter Wednesday titled “a cry of despair” as the country’s overwhelmed and deteriorated health-care system copes with a record-setting surge of coronavirus infections and deaths.
The College of Physicians of Bucharest, a non-governmental organization representing doctors in Romania’s capital, said in a letter addressed to Romanians that the medical system has “reached the limit” and that low vaccination rates reveal a “failure of trust” between doctors and the population.
“We are desperate because every day we lose hundreds of patients who die in Romanian hospitals,” the letter reads. “We are desperate, because, unfortunately, we have heard too many times: ‘I can’t breathe … I’m not vaccinated.'”
Romania, a country of 19 million people, is the European Union member nation with the population second-least vaccinated against COVID-19. Just 34 per cent of its adults are fully inoculated, compared to an EU average of 74 per cent.
On Tuesday, Romania reported daily pandemic records of nearly 17,000 new confirmed cases and 442 deaths. Data from health authorities indicates that more than 90 per cent of coronavirus patients who died last week were unvaccinated against COVID-19.
“Every day we witness tragedies: dying patients, suffering families, doctors who have reached the end of their powers,” the letter from Bucharest’s doctors reads.
Help from EU
The pressure on hospitals prompted Romanian officials last week to suspend non-emergency medical procedures for 30 days and to ask the EU for help.
Janez Lenarcic, the EU commissioner for crisis management, said last week that the EU would send 250 oxygen concentrators to Romania, which on Tuesday received 5,200 doses of monoclonal antibodies from Italy. Several dozen COVID-19 patients will also be sent to intensive care units in Hungary this week.
-From The Associated Press, last updated at 6:30 a.m. ET
What’s happening in Canada
What’s happening around the world
As of early Friday morning, more than 239.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.8 million.
In the Asia-Pacific region, India reopened to fully vaccinated foreign tourists travelling on chartered flights on Friday in the latest easing of its coronavirus restrictions as infection numbers decline. Foreign tourists on regular flights will be able to enter India starting Nov. 15.
It is the first time India has allowed foreign tourists to enter the country since March 2020 when it imposed its first nationwide coronavirus lockdown. It is unclear whether arriving tourists will have to quarantine but they must be fully vaccinated and test negative for the virus within 72 hours of their flight.
In the Middle East, more than 20.6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the United Arab Emirates. The country, which currently offers vaccines to people aged 16 and up, has approved the Sinopharm vaccine, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the Sputnik V vaccine.
In Africa, Nigeria has received 501,600 doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine from the French government through the COVAX vaccine-sharing facility, a senior health official said on Thursday.
In the Americas, U.S. health advisers said Thursday that some Americans who received Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine should get a half-dose booster to bolster protection against the virus. The panel of advisers to the Food and Drug Administration voted unanimously to recommend a booster shot for seniors, adults with other health problems, jobs or living situations that put them at increased risk for COVID-19.
As for the dose, initial Moderna vaccination consists of two 100-microgram shots. But Moderna says a single 50-microgram shot should be enough for a booster.
The FDA will use its advisers’ recommendations in making final decisions for boosters from both companies. Assuming a positive decision, there’s still another hurdle: Next week, a panel convened by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will offer more specifics on who should get one.
In Europe, fully vaccinated passengers arriving in England from low-risk countries from Oct. 24 will no longer have to take expensive COVID-19 tests, the British government said.
-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 6:25 a.m. ET