Monday

6th Apr 2020

Coronavirus

Romania braces for 1.3m workers' Easter return

  • A worshipper in face mask at a Romanian church service this week

Romania has entered the second phase of its response to the coronavirus outbreak, after registering 70 cases, with 2,067 people quarantined and almost 13,745 kept in home isolation.

Indoor gatherings of more than 100 people have been banned, with cultural, artistic institutions and museums following suit.

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  • The limit on public gatherings has now been reduced from 1,000 to 100

The decision targets the entire country and will be in place until the end of the month with possible extensions after 31 March. Meanwhile, on Friday, the government announced it was self-quarantining, after a Liberal Party senator confirmed he had the virus.

Malls and supermarkets are exempted, and so are parliamentary gatherings.

The Department for Emergency Situations brought down the number of accepted attendees in enclosed gatherings from 1,000 earlier in the week, to 100, as Romanian authorities tighten restrictions in hope of curbing the spread of coronavirus.

Included are also religious gatherings, ceremonies and weddings.

Even parties with fewer participants are limited, and restaurant owners being required to have a special room set up where people showing COVID-19 symptoms can be kept isolated.

"We are considering increasing prevention measures, yet the conditions under which new restrictions will take place depends on several indicators such as the number of infected people, their health status and number of available quarantine sites", Theodor Mihai, spokesperson for the department told EUobserver.

Schools have been shut down and the Ministry of Labour recommends companies allow their employees to work from home.

"We have established a work-from-home system as a precaution measure to come in aid of both our employees and the recommendations given by authorities", the human resources manager of a Bucharest-based PR agency told EUobserver.

Public sector workers are also adapting to the new restrictions, either by having an altered work schedule to avoid rush hour crowding in the public transportation system, or by implementing extreme on-site provisions such as mailmen required to wear protective suits when delivering pensions and allowances to quarantined people.

Despite safeguards, loose words can give way to panic. Early this week, the Romanian government sounded the alarm about a possible contamination within its own structures.

An employee of the governmental agency dealing with inventions and trademarks (OSIM) has been tested positive with coronavirus.

The interim prime minister, Ludovic Orban, said that two other people employed with the general secretariat of the government and one from a catering company with access to the government came in contact with the OSIM worked and are suspected to have contracted the virus.

Italy, the most affected country in Europe by the coronavirus outbreak, is high on the agenda of travel restrictions imposed by the Romania authorities. Road and rail public transport from Italy is suspended.

Also, all flights to and from Italy have been canceled, as people coming in will be automatically placed under quarantine and home isolation.

Italy-Romania axis

The travel ban proves tricky as Italy is home to over 1.3 million Romanian migrants, who, mostly, are expected to come home for the Easter holiday next month.

The Nadlac border crossing, one of Romania's main entry points, is packed hundreds of frustrated Romanians coming from Italy and trying to get into the country. Those making it across the border are escorted by police to quarantine centres.

Amid the uncertainty, president Klaus Iohannis called for unity, and warned about the danger of misinformation. He has been asking both Romanians from home and those residing in Italy to respect the measures imposed by authorities as he requested citizens to cancel all non-essential travel.

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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