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Ukrainian Health Minister Maksym Stepanov has said the country is facing "a very difficult period" since the situation with the spread of COVID-19 is deteriorating.

"The situation with the spread of COVID-19 in Ukraine is getting worse. We will face a very difficult period. Today we have set another high in terms of fatalities: for the first time, the figure crossed 300 in the country, this is how many people died from COVID-19 in the past day," the minister told an online briefing on Tuesday, an UNIAN correspondent reported.

Read alsoCOVID-19: Ukraine mandates negative PCR test for crossing inAccording to Stepanov, the number of new cases has significantly increased over the past week.

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"The week before last, we recorded 60,748 cases, while last week we already got 86,708. You see there are almost 26,000 more cases. And this is just in a week alone," he added.

The minister said the number of people in hospital beds had also increased.

"As of Monday morning [March 22], there were 36,600 people in our hospitals with COVID-19 or with suspicion – all these people need treatment in a hospital," he said.

"At the same time, we have significantly increased the number of tests run – from 395,000 the week before last to over 531,000 PCR and antigen tests," he added.

Stepanov said the average occupancy of beds with oxygen supply is 55% across country, but the situation with hospital load is of great concern in some regions: more than 70% of beds with oxygen are occupied in the capital city of Kyiv, while the situation with hospitalization remains tense in Zakarpattia, Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv, Vinnytsia, and Mykolaiv regions.

COVID-19 in Ukraine: Latest developments

Ukraine said 11,476 new active COVID-19 cases had been confirmed across the country in the past 24 hours as of March 23, 2021.

The total number of confirmed cases grew to 1,565,732.