Romanians in the time of the coronavirus
This week, Romania's president Klaus Iohannis has announced the extension by one month of the state of emergency declared on March 16th to combat the spread of the new coronavirus. Romanian authorities have also issued a military decree, the seventh over this period, under which the town of Tandarei, in the south, became the second town in Romania, after Suceava (north-east), placed on full lock-down, as it became a hotbed for Covid-19 infection in Ialomita County. The lock-down was decided at the request of the local authorities, after hundreds of locals had returned home from abroad and did not observe the isolation requirements. Neither the police, nor the very high fines could convince them to stay indoors.
Another military decree, the 8th, presented on Thursday night, bans the export of wheat, barley, oat, corn, rice, wheat flour, soy, sunflower, oil, sugar and bakery products. Those who work in commercial fishing and beekeepers are allowed to go out at night to carry out their regular activities. Also, food markets remain open during the state of emergency period.
Waiting for the peak of the infection
The Romanian Health Minister Nelu Tataru has repeatedly stated that, in the next two weeks, Romanians should expect a rise in the number of new infections. Even so, in his opinion, at least for now, the scenario in which the health-care system does not cope with the situation is not being considered. There are, however, health-care units where strict measures had to be taken in order for things to unfold in a normal way.
More precisely, after the Emergency County Hospital in Deva became a hotbed for coronavirus infection, Bucharest authorities decided that the best solution for the unit to function properly was to place it under military control. So, the Deva hospital became the second civilian hospital in Romania under military management, after the one in Suceava, which was also taken over by a team of army doctors.
Measures to support Romanians affected by the pandemic
This week, the Romanian Government has approved the granting of a bonus for the medical staff that works directly with the patients infected with the new coronavirus. 75 thousand people will get approximately 500 euro per month, subject to only 10% income tax. Also, one thousand social and community workers will get 400 Euro per month to take care of those who are isolated, alone and over the age of 65. The money comes from European funds.
Also, this week, the Romanian Senate has unanimously adopted the proposal set forth by the opposition Social Democratic Party to ensure a pension for the children and spouses of the people in health-care who die in the fight against the coronavirus. That amount would equal 75% of the deceased person's salary. The Chamber of Deputies has the final vote on the matter.
In another move, as part of the same social and economic measures taken against the background of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Romanian Government is planning to put some of the state employees in furlough, for half a month. Right now, the activity of more than one million employees in the private sector and self-employed is seriously affected.
Diaspora and the Covid-19 pandemic
This week, Bucharest has repeatedly urged Romanians living abroad not to come home for the Catholic or Orthodox Easter and remain where they are currently living, in order to protect their loved ones. Prime Minister Ludovic Orban has warned that those who decide to come to Romania anyway, will have to be placed under a 14-day institutionalized quarantine or self-isolation, given that the number of countries that have joined the red-zone category, with cases of infections exceeding 10 thousand, has increased.
The suspension of international road passenger transports has been extended. Also, commercial flights to and from Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, the US, Great Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Turkey and Iran remain suspended, just like those to and from Spain, Italy, France and Germany. Under military decree no.7, the charter flights carrying seasonal workers from Romania to other European countries are still allowed.
Against this background, the airport in Cluj, north-western Romania, on Thursday was the scene of a mind-boggling situation, with some 2 thousand Romanian seasonal workers, heading for Germany to carry out agricultural works, cramming into the entrance to the airport and ignoring basic rules in terms of limiting the spread of the coronavirus. Several other hundreds of workers left the country from the Sibiu Airport, in the center. (M.Ignatescu)