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Ukraine faces record COVID deaths, PM urges tighter restrictions

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KYIV (Reuters) - Ukraine registered a record daily high of 289 coronavirus-related deaths over the past 24 hours, leading the prime minister to urge local authorities to impose stronger restrictions to contain its spread.

Ukraine last month prolonged a lockdown until the end of April but allowed regions with fewer COVID-19 cases to ease some curbs.

Health Minister Maksym Stepanov said a record number of Ukrainians were taken to hospital with COVID-19 on Tuesday - 4,887 people, almost 15% more than the previous highest figure of 4,250 people registered on March 11.

The number of hospitalisations did not exceed 2,000 during the country’s late 2020 peak of the pandemic.

Stepanov said 11,833 new infections had been registered over the past 24 hours. Ukraine has reported a total of 1,489,023 coronavirus cases and 28,986 deaths so far.

“The situation with the coronavirus is disappointing, there are a lot of hospitalisations and severe cases. New strains spread quickly and lead to more dire consequences,” Prime Minister Denys Shmygal told a televised government meeting.

“A local government has the right to increase restrictions and therefore I urge local authorities not to wait for any instructions, but to make the necessary decisions - if you see an increase in the number of sick people, the number of hospitalised - introduce additional restrictions.”

The authorities in the largest Western Ukrainian city Lviv are introducing a strict lockdown from March 19, closing cafes, restaurants, non-food stores and introducing a ban on public events.

Last week, authorities also closed the country’s largest ski resort in the Carpathian Mountains.

Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Alison Williams

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