Romania tightens COVID-19 restrictions as cases surge

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BUCHAREST, Oct 23 (Reuters) – The Romanian government will re-introduce a night curfew and make health passes mandatory for entry to most public venues from Monday, as well as sending school children on vacation for two weeks, as it seeks to stem a surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths.Members of the medical staff attend to a patient in a COVID-19 isolation room at the University Emergency Hospital in Bucharest, Romania, Friday, Oct. 22, 2021. In Romania, a European Union country of around 19 million, only 35% of adults are fully inoculated against COVID-19 compared to an EU average of 74%.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)© ASSOCIATED PRESS Members of the medical staff attend to a patient in a COVID-19 isolation room at the University Emergency Hospital in Bucharest, Romania, Friday, Oct. 22, 2021. In Romania, a European Union country of around 19 million, only 35% of adults are fully inoculated against COVID-19 compared to an EU average of 74%.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

The measures, expanding nationwide measures that had mostly already been taken in towns with high case numbers, were approved by the interim government late on Friday.

Romania has reported record numbers of daily coronavirus deaths and infections this month and the hospital system is stretched to breaking point. The country has the second-lowest coronavirus vaccination rate in the European Union.

“We are in a disaster situation,” deputy Interior Minister Raed Arafat said on Friday. “We have seen other countries go through this when there wasn’t a weapon available, namely the vaccine.”

“We are in this situation while having the vaccine, because the majority of us refused to get inoculated. This situation could have been avoided.”

The new measures will be in force for 30 days and include restrictions on the movement of people from 10 p.m. and shutting down shops and restaurants from 9 p.m.

Only people who have been vaccinated or who have recovered from the virus will be allowed access to most non-essential public venues except food shops and pharmacies. Religious services can also operate without a pass.

Wearing facemasks in public places will become mandatory from Monday, while weddings and other private events are banned.

The government is also urging employers to send half their staff to work from home.

Just over a third of the adult population is fully vaccinated in Romania, amid distrust in state institutions and misinformation campaigns.

But vaccinations were on the rise this week, with people apparently responding to dramatic news images of overcrowded hospitals and people dying. On Friday, more than 86,000 people got their first vaccine dose, a record for a single day in the country. (Reporting by Luiza Ilie Editing by Frances Kerry) AdChoices

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