EU health body recommends free COVID tests, vaccines for Ukrainian refugees

(Reuters) – The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said on Friday that countries should provide free COVID-19 testing for refugees from Ukraine to avoid outbreaks as more than three million people flee their war-stricken homeland.

Infectious diseases and conflict often go hand-in-hand, and the risk of infections spreading could be further exacerbated as COVID vaccination rates in Ukraine have been low overall at 35% versus the EU average of 71.7%.

Those fleeing the country should be offered a full course of COVID-19 vaccines, and booster doses, if they do not have proof of prior inoculation, with an emphasis on those at greater risk of severe COVID-19, the ECDC said.

Refugees eat as they wait in front of the Ukrainian consulate in Warszawa, Poland March 10, 2022. Kuba Atys/Agencja via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. POLAND OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN POLAND./File Photo

Some Ukrainian refugees have fled to nearby countries in Europe such as Poland, Slovakia, Romania while others are looking to move further west to escape Russia’s invasion. read more

Refugee reception centres are known to be at a greater risk of disease outbreaks. The ECDC said countries should test at those centres, and try to isolate those displaying symptoms.

Figures showing a global rise in COVID-19 cases could herald a much bigger problem as some countries also report a drop in testing rates, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday, warning nations to remain vigilant against the virus. read more

Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Bill Berkrot

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