Greek Catholic cathedral in Covid-hit Ukraine opens for vaccinations

·2-min read
Ukraine reported a record 793 Covid deaths on Sunday (AFP/Sergei SUPINSKY)

Ukraine's Greek Catholic Church has opened a coronavirus vaccination centre in one of its Kiev cathedrals -- the first religious institution to do so in a country where infections have spiked.

Ukraine recently reported record numbers of daily Covid deaths and cases, while only 25 percent of its population is fully vaccinated.

Religious institutions in the ex-Soviet country had been cautious to urge people to get vaccinated, let alone allow their premises to be used as vaccination points.

But clerics of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the third-largest in the country, on Sunday opened the doors of their main Kiev cathedral to those wanting a jab.

"The church sees no reason to refuse the vaccine," Father Taras Zheblinsky, head of the Greek Catholic Church's media department, told AFP.

"Taking the vaccine is a way to save your life and health," he said, standing inside the large Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ in eastern Kiev.

Ukraine reported 793 new coronavirus deaths on Saturday -- a record for the country, which has an under-resourced health care system.

New daily cases hit a pandemic record of 27,377 last week and were at more than 13,000 on Monday.

"We are getting vaccinated so that if we get sick, then it will be a mild illness," Nazar Kozak, one of dozens waiting for a jab told AFP.

"When trouble comes to a country, any community, including a religious one, should help people," said the 32-year-old lawyer.

Ukrainian authorities initially struggled to source vaccine doses and have since fought to convince vaccine-sceptic Ukrainians to get inoculated.

But new restrictions requiring vaccinations have seen people across the country flock to vaccine centres, with inoculations now running at about 250,000 people a day.

Since the start of the pandemic, Ukraine has recorded more than 3 million coronavirus cases and 72,000 deaths.

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