Ukraine approves Chinese vaccine as COVID-19 cases hit new record high

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KYIV (Reuters) - Ukraine has approved China's Sinovac vaccine to fight the coronavirus pandemic, the health ministry said on Saturday, after the country recorded a record rise in new COVID-19 cases for the second day in a row.

Ukraine received its first batch of 215,000 Sinovac doses in March to boost its vaccination programme, which has lagged behind many other European countries and it has so far relied on a single batch of AstraZeneca vaccines from India.

But authorities delayed using the Chinese vaccine, saying its local supplier had not provided the necessary paperwork and that the vaccine needed additional laboratory checks.

"As part of the vaccinations against COVID-19, Ukraine will use the CoronaVac vaccine from Sinovac Biotech," the health ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

"The vaccines of the Chinese company Sinovac Biotech can be trusted," it said.

Ukraine is tightening lockdown restrictions in the worst-hit areas as coronavirus cases have soared after a winter lull.

The capital Kyiv will impose a strict lockdown from April 5, restricting public transport and closing all schools and kindergartens.

The city has already banned public events, and has closed cafes and restaurants in an attempt to halt the new wave.

Ukraine recorded a record increase of 20,341 new infections over the preceding 24 hours, Health Minister Maksym Stepanov said on Saturday.

Writing on his social media page, Stepanov said 5,186 people were hospitalised in the same period, and 396 people had died, bringing the total death toll since the start of the pandemic to 34,075 in the country of 41 million people.

(Reporting by Ilya Zhegulev; Writing by Polina Ivanova and Matthias Williams; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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