Moldova investigates preferential vaccination of officials as lockdown tightens

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: A man receives a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine against the coronavirus disease in Chisinau

CHISINAU (Reuters) - Moldova said on Thursday it was investigating claims that regional officials and their relatives were jumping the queue to obtain COVID-19 vaccines as the government stepped up its fight against the pandemic by introducing nightly curfews.

Moldova, one of Europe's poorest country, has lagged behind the rest of the continent in the scramble for vaccines and welcomed donations from friendly governments.

The first batch of 14,400 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from the global COVAX program arrived in Moldova in March. So far Moldova, which reported 230,241 coronavirus cases and 4,960 deaths, has received 110,970 doses of various COVID-19 vaccines.

Nineli Revenco, an official at the national vaccination campaign, said the health ministry had established a commission to look into possible violations.

"The health ministry launched an investigation to determine if there were irregularities in the vaccination process. For this, the lists of all vaccinated will be checked," Revenko told a news conference.

She did not provide evidence of violations.

Presidential adviser Alla Nemerenco earlier this week said that "dozens of district officials from all over the country, mothers and mothers-in-law of mayors, mayors, civic activists" had already been vaccinated out of turn.

Local media reported that out-of-order vaccinations occurred in the northern town of Edinet and in Cantemir in the southern part of Moldova.

Moldova began vaccinations on March 2 and so far about 40,000 medical workers and doctors have received a first shot.

Moldovan lawmakers voted on Wednesday to introduce a state of emergency for 60 days to tighten restrictions in order to contain the rapid spread of the virus and ease the strain on hospitals.[L1N2LT1ZP]

Acting Prime Minister Aureliu Ciocoi said late on Thursday the government decided to impose a curfew in the capital Chisinau and the second largest city of Balti from April 3, banning people from going out from 11 p.m. until 5 a.m.

(Reporting by Alexander Tanas, writing by Pavel Polityuk and Natalia Zinets; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Bill Berkrot)