Tuesday

19th Jan 2021

Coronavirus

Romania's virus surge prompts queues and new worries

  • Greece, a favourite summer holiday destination for many Romanians, allows only one border crossing - with coronavirus testing carried on the spot, and a queue several kilometres long of thousands of holiday-makers (Photo: Forum Grecia)

Some 614 infections were recorded last week in one 24-hour period alone, amongst the highest one-day surge in the European Union.

The daily tally is also the highest reported since the pandemic began in Romania over four months ago, bringing the country's total number of cases to over 30,000.

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The upward trend is in contrast to the slow but steadily declining number of new cases in Western Europe.

Former coronavirus hotbeds like Italy, Spain, Germany and Belgium have all seen fewer new infections, despite the comparable number of testing per thousand people.

"We are likely to see close to 1,000 new cases per day if this trend continues. We have to carefully distribute ICU beds at regional level as pressure mounts on intensive care units across the country", Florin Buicu, President of the Romanian Parliament Committee for Health, told EUobserver.

Travel restrictions

The rise in coronavirus cases prompted an increasing number of countries to reintroduce travel restrictions for Romanians, either by blocking access into the country, imposing a 14-day quarantine upon arrival, or limiting the number of entry points.

Greece, a favourite summer holiday destination for many Romanians, allows for only one border crossing - with coronavirus testing carried on the spot.

This led to thousands of holiday-makers being stalled for hours at the border in queues several kilometres long.

Austria and Holland are the most recent examples of countries imposing restrictions, both reinstating a 14-day mandatory quarantine for Romanian arriving there.

United Kingdom also decided to keep Romania on its "high-risk" countries travel list.

Refuseniks and sceptics in attendance

Coronavirus regulations and the recent spike in infections are also fuelling the recent parliamentary and public debate.

The Social Democrats, Romania's main opposition party, has been calling for restriction to be lifted.

A debate organised last week by some of the party's MPs with NGOs representatives, saw anti-vaxxers and coronavirus-deniers invited to attend.

"The purpose of this meeting was to get feedback from the civil society. I didn't know who was in attendance", Oana Florea, one of the MPs organising the meeting told EUobserver.

Also last week, two other Social Democrat MPs got into a fight with local police in a Bucharest kebap shop over their refusal to wear a mask and were both fined.

Wearing faces masks is mandatory indoors in order to limit the spread of coronavirus.

The governing Liberal Party and president Klaus Iohannis have been advocating for a different approach, warning that the pandemic is far from over and coronavirus rules and restrictions have to be kept in place.

"Emergency care units are in many counties in critical condition. No one wants to get back to the prevision nationwide lockdown, but we are all concerned about the increasing number of cases and we need to act responsibility", Rareş Bogdan, MEP from the governing National Liberal Party told EUobserver.

National Liberal Party leader and current prime minister, Ludovic Orban was also fined in late May for breaking his own coronavirus restrictions, after a picture of him not wearing face mask indoors went viral.

Orban was shown in his office together with several cabinet members, none of whom wore masks.

President Iohannis last last week held a press conference calling for unity, asking both politicians and citizens to help in curbing the spread of the virus.

He also defended lockdown restrictions from past months, saying that without those measures the situation would have been much worse.

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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