Monday

6th Apr 2020

Feature

Coronavirus hysteria hits Romania

  • Scenes of chock-full shopping carts and empty meat and dairy shelves added to the growing sense of panic gripping the country (Photo: Cristian Gherasim)

Romanian authorities earlier this week (Wednesday 26 February) confirmed the first, and only, case of coronavirus infection - yet public hysteria over a possible national outbreak hit the country days before.

Supermarkets across the country have been stormed by panicking shoppers, looking to stock up on groceries. Fears that an epidemic would leave food supplies short led many to buy weeks' worth of groceries in one go.

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Scenes of chock-full shopping carts and empty meat and dairy shelves added to the growing sense of panic gripping the country.

It began when Italy, a country of around 1.3 million Romanian migrants, and a destination where many Romanians regularly travel back and forth, became Europe's worst-affected by the new coronavirus.

In Romania, the first such case was confirmed on Wednesday night. A man from Gorj county tested positive, as he came in contact with an Italian visitor who was confirmed to be infected with coronavirus.

Authorities are now doing an epidemiological investigation in Gorj county to trace everyone the Italian citizen met during his stay there. Local measures to contain the virus are in place, as schools and kindergartens were closed down for disinfection.

A state secretary from the Romanian ministry of health recently reported during a press conference that at national level there are currently 91 people quarantined and over 7,000 kept in home isolation.

"There is no need to change our way of life, no need to crowd supermarkets, empty shelves and panic our relatives from home or abroad. When someone is quarantined, that person is cared for by authorities", said the ministry state secretary, Nelu Tataru, at the press conference.

Tataru added that for the upcoming Women's Day on the March 8 Romanians should refrain from kissing when offering flowers, to avoid possible contamination.

Despite authorities urging the public for calm and against unwarranted actions, some Romanians proved less responsive.

A Japanese marathon runner residing in Bucharest wrote on Facebook that she was being yelled at in the street accused of having coronavirus on account of her ethnicity.

The other day, fans of a local football team assaulted a person of Asian origin in the Bucharest metro.

Witnesses told a local news station that the football supporters claimed the young man was infected with coronavirus and helped spread the disease. The man was bullied as he was being pushed out the metro.

Metrorex, the company running Bucharest Metro, told EUobserver over phone that they could not verify and confirm that the incident took place and under what circumstances.

Across the country there are cases of people giving into the coronavirus frenzy.

False alarms

A local news agency reported on two people from the Prahova region of Romania who called 112 emergency number to tell on their neighbours who just returned from Italy and are having flu-like symptoms.

Arges county, where a quarantine centre will be set up, saw villagers taking to the streets in protest of the decision.

President Klaus Iohannis called for calm over social media, saying that the virus threat should be taken seriously, yet there is no reason to panic.

"State authorities have taken all precautionary measures to curb the spread of the virus in our country and limit its effects. We need to get our information from credible sources, as the spread of fake news can trigger a panic epidemic", said Klaus Iohannis in a Facebook post.

Author bio

Cristian Gherasim is a freelance journalist contributing to EUobserver, Euronews, EU Reporter, Katoikos, Von Mises Institute, and bne IntelliNews, with a particular focus on European and regional affairs.

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