Romania revives restrictions as hospitals struggle, jabs lag

APTOPIX Virus Outbreak Romania

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Doctor Petruta Filip is working 100-hour weeks at a Bucharest hospital which, like hospitals throughout Romania, is struggling under an onslaught of COVID-19 patients in a country with worryingly low vaccination rates.

The European Union country of around 19 million has only 35% of its adults fully inoculated against COVID-19 compared to an EU average of 74%, and is the second-least vaccinated nation in the 27-nation bloc in front of Bulgaria. That's crippling Romania's creaking health care system, which is also facing record-high death and infection numbers.

In an attempt Friday to curb the deadly surge and relieve pressure on hospitals, authorities approved tighter restrictions set to take effect on Monday. Vaccination certificates will be required for many day-to-day activities, such as going to the gym, the cinema, or a shopping mall.

For everyone, there will be a 10 p.m. curfew, shops will be shuttered at 9 p.m., bars and clubs will close for 30 days, and schools will close for an additional week over half-term starting Monday. Masks will be mandatory for everyone in public.

“I would bring people (who don’t believe in the virus or vaccines) here for a day, and maybe they’ll change their opinion,” Filip told The Associated Press Friday. She works at the capital's Bucharest University Emergency Hospital in a COVID-19 ward packed with patients receiving oxygen treatment.

Romania on Tuesday registered record highs of nearly 19,000 infections and 574 deaths. More than 1,800 coronavirus patients are currently receiving intensive care treatment. Data from Romania's health authorities indicate that more than 90% of those dying of COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

“All the stories on TV are about morgues filled with dead people and relatives crying outside," said Filip, on a day that Romania registered 16,110 new COVID-19 infections and 448 deaths.