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Ukraine president urges health awareness after record infections

KYIV (Reuters) - Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged people to act on health advice on Saturday after official data showed daily COVID-19 infections had risen to a record level.

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The country saw 2,328 cases of the new coronavirus in the past 24 hours, and 37 deaths of people having tested positive for the virus, data from the national council of security and defence showed.

Infections have risen sharply in recent days and the latest daily total surpassed the previous record of 2,134 set on Thursday, pushing the total number of cases to 102,971. The death toll has risen to 2,244, the figures showed.

Zelenskiy asked people to take seriously the recent jump in the daily tally of new infections, urging them to wear masks and keep social distancing.

“Please help doctors, be careful,” Zelenskiy said in a televised interview. “We really did not have the first wave (of infections) when it happened in Europe. Now it is coming, now we are growing ... almost daily.”

He said Ukraine had managed to avoid a big number of infections in March through May thanks to a strict lockdown. Yet as soon as restrictions had gradually been lifted, numbers of new daily coronavirus cases started rising, from bellow 1,000 in June to above 2,000 this week.

“We are well prepared in terms of (hospital) places, equipment, number of tests ... But no number of places in hospitals, and especially no number of specialists, will help us survive if there is the second and third wave, if it is very powerful,” the president said.

“And here the question is only for our people”.

Like other countries, Ukraine’s government decided to ease lockdown rules for economic reasons, after seeing gross domestic product shrink 11.4% in the second quarter year-on-year, showing the deepest quarterly fall since 2015.

The authorities do not plan to lock down the whole country again, but have reimposed some restrictions such as limiting public transport and imposing bans on large public events in several cities and towns with high numbers of infections.

Reporting by Natalia Zinets; Editing by William Mallard and David Holmes