On the border between Moldova and Romania, the pandemic exposes inequalities | Moldova news
At the hospital in the small Moldovan town of Leova, exhausted doctors see no end to the pandemic: cases are increasing and vaccinations are only just beginning.
The first Moldovan was vaccinated at the beginning of March – more than two months after member countries of the European Union began to vaccinate their populations – and only thanks to donations from neighboring Romania, with which he has historically close relations.
The two countries can share the same language, but offer a glimpse of the difference a border can make.
So far, non-EU Moldova has received barely enough doses for 3% of its population, while Romania, an EU member since 2007, has already administered nearly 3 million.
“If Romania were not part of the EU, it would certainly have had a much harder time getting vaccinated,” says Sorin Ionita, policy analyst at the Expert Forum think tank.
Romanian Liberal Prime Minister Florin Citu said the European Commission’s procurement management had helped avoid âchaosâ in which âthe highest bidderâ received the most vaccines.
This is part of the reason why Bucharest has refrained from criticizing the bloc’s vaccine rollout, unlike other eastern members like Hungary and Poland, Ionita said.
This position of conciliation “is part of a broader policy of Bucharest, which, supported by a Europhile population, does not seek to fight with Brussels”, he adds.
Moldova, which was part of Romania until the Soviet Union annexed it in 1940, remains one of the poorest countries in Europe and has so far relied on donated vaccines, about 72,000 so far from Bucharest.
He received an additional 38,000 doses through the global COVAX mechanism to help low- and middle-income countries fight the pandemic.
In total, these donated vaccines would be enough to give about 110,000 people at least one dose out of a population of 3.5 million.
The outlook remains bleak because “vaccination is the only chance” to contain the pandemic, says Andrei Malasevschi, director of the hospital in Leova, a town of about 8,000 inhabitants nestled on the banks of the Prut River which forms the border with Romania.
âWe haven’t had the so-called ‘waves’. The pandemic has only grown and continues to do so, âhe said.
So far, more than 4,800 people have died in the small nation.
At the Emergency Institute in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, one of the largest hospitals in the country, the number of intensive care beds has increased from 24 to 62 to cope with the influx of COVID patients.
âIt is too early to consider vaccinating risk categories, let alone the general population,â says Adrian Belii, head of the intensive care unit and one of the country’s most prominent doctors.
If Moldova were a member of the EU, “as a large part of the population dreams of, things would have been different”, he adds.
As the number of cases continues to rise, Moldova’s pro-EU President Maia Sandu said she would try “to get rapid access to the Sputnik V vaccine” from Russia, an announcement that sparked lively discussions between Moldovans.
Disinformation campaigns are rampant, and local media have reported that healthcare workers in the pro-Russian region of Gagauzia have refused the AstraZeneca vaccine, saying they would rather wait for Sputnik V. from Moscow.
âWe are very politicized. And when some hospitals say they won’t use a European vaccine because they want the Russian vaccine, we have a problem, âsays Malasevschi.
Once vaccines are available to more of the population, sociologist Victor Mocanu believes that mistrust will give way to the economic need of families dependent on diaspora remittances.
“The approximately one million Moldovans who work abroad will want to be vaccinated as soon as possible because they will not be able to travel without a certificate,” he predicts.