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Bosnian Doctors Prepare for New Wave as Virus Cases Spike

Doctors in Bosnia are ready for a fresh wave as the coronavirus rages in neighboring nations. The Balkan nation has a poor vaccination coverage and was one of the most impacted countries in Europe early in the epidemic.

Staff at Banja Luka’s COVID-19 ward of the city’s major hospital warn that hospitalizations have been growing in recent days and might burst at any time.

Other low-vaccination nations in Central and Eastern Europe, such as Bosnia’s neighbors Serbia and Croatia, have been dealing with an outbreak of diseases that has persisted for weeks. Some nations have witnessed the largest numbers since the outbreak began, leading authorities to consider increasing anti-virus regulations hesitantly.

“What we’ve seen in the last few days is that the epidemic situation is worsening,” Danijel Djokic, head of the COVID-19 ward at Banja Luka’s University Clinical Center, said.

“We can predict that our numbers would climb too,” he told The Associated Press on Thursday, based on the circumstances in surrounding nations.

For COVID patients, the facility has a baseline 300-bed capacity, of which 223 have already been occupied, including 32 in critical care. When prior surges occurred, the hospital was able to progressively extend its capacity to 700 beds.

Other sections of Bosnia and Herzegovina have also seen an upsurge in new illnesses, with roughly 1,000 new cases each day recorded on Thursday.

As a result, officials in Sarajevo’s capital have increased vaccine options, ordered schools to provide vaccination classes, and stated that they are watching the situation for possible further limitations if the virus spreads out of control.

Most governments in Central and Eastern Europe have been hesitant to resort to lockdowns, preferring instead to use COVID-19 passes and pro-vaccination campaigns to increase vaccination rates. Bosnia’s immunization rate is about 20% of its 3.2 million inhabitants, which is among the lowest in Europe.

Most of their current patients, according to doctors in Banja Luka, have not been vaccinated at all or have only gotten one dosage. Vaccinated persons that end up in the hospital are frequently older and have a better clinical status that does not usually result in death, according to Dr. Djokic.

“I’d want to use this occasion to emphasize once more that immunization, with any vaccine in particular, is the only and safest strategy to combat COVID-19 infection and this pandemic,” he stated.

Bosnia has struggled during the epidemic, already reeling from the devastation caused by a 1992-95 conflict that killed over 100,000 people. Reports of wrongdoing in the acquisition of equipment for COVID-19 wards have prompted a state prosecutor’s investigation into an already ailing health system.

Bosnia has had over 250,000 confirmed infections and over 11,000 deaths, making it one of Europe’s highest death rates per capita.

“I would undoubtedly have a terrible time pulling through if I wasn’t vaccinated,” Marinko Ucur, a patient, told the Associated Press from his hospital bed, speaking through an oxygen mask. “The disease’s consequences would have been considerably more severe on me.”

Ucur said that despite taking precautions and protecting himself from the virus, he was still afflicted.

“I’m not sure how I acquired it,” he said. “All I know is that this delta variety is extremely contagious and that individuals are catching it at an alarming rate.”

Apart from poor vaccination rates, researchers blame the region’s recent outbreaks on the extremely infectious delta form, as well as widespread disregard for anti-virus guidelines to wear face masks indoors, keep a safe distance, and avoid crowds.

Rajko Milunovic, 43, a COVID-19 patient in Banja Luka, claimed he has not been vaccinated but would do so as soon as he is released from the hospital. Many people in Bosnia and Herzegovina are vaccine skeptics, owing to widespread mistrust of the government and the spread of anti-vaccination conspiracy theories.

“You only comprehend how serious this illness is when you feel it on your skin, on yourself,” he added. “Now I see everything clearly. I’ll be vaccinated as soon as I get out of here. “I believe the vaccination is beneficial.”

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