Romania in the face of the Omicron wave, with fun and good cheer, minimum restrictions and hopes that the situation will not become dramatic

Romania is facing the Omicron wave of the pandemic, which has led to record numbers of infections in all affected countries, without the adoption of the green certificate for employees, with a vaccinated population of only 40%, with testing at the minimum limit, with schools opening without no protection measures and with minimum restrictions.

The last days of 2021 marked the official beginning of the 5th pandemic wave in Romania, with the increase in the number of daily infections. The Ministry of Health confirmed, just on the eve of the new year, the beginning of the community transmission in our country of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, which is extremely contagious.

The announcements of the authorities, in the absence of taking some decisions and measures, did not stop the Romanians and the foreigners who came here to have fun as in the times before the pandemic. The malls were overcrowded, the resorts crowded, the old center of Bucharest gathered thousands of partygoers on New Year’s Eve.

The government has decided to relax the restrictions from December 1, and so far no decision is expected to change the situation.

Up to date situation:

  • The introduction of the green certificate in the workplace has remained at the level of intent, because the parties in the governing coalition, which has a large majority in Parliament, avoid taking this unpopular decision.
  • The protective mask remained mandatory only indoors and in some crowded places.
  • Schools have been open since January 3 without any restrictions and with a testing campaign that has failed since its inception.
  • Only a few tens of thousands of tests to detect those infected are performed daily in Romania. By comparison, France, with a population of 3 times as much as Romania, did 1.5 million tests in one day, and in the United Kingdom the tests were exhausted due to demand.
  • The vaccination campaign is going slower, although Romania is on the penultimate place in Europe for vaccination, with only 40% of the population with the complete scheme (one dose for Johnson & Johnson or two doses for other vaccines), given that studies so far show that effective protection against Omicron is given by the booster dose. Almost all European countries are campaigning for booster immunization.
  • It is not known when the vaccination of children aged 5-11 in Romania will start, although the other European countries have started immunizing children in this category. Romania does not even have a set date for receiving special vaccine doses for children.
  • The digital entry form (PLF), although mandatory for 10 days, is not completed by a large number of those entering the country. Hundreds of thousands of Romanians came from various countries during this period, and many refused the quarantine imposed by the authorities on the unvaccinated. Many of them returned to their relatives, as they do every holiday year, regardless of the risks of seeing their loved ones again, most of them elderly.

Against this background, the National Institute of Public Health has publicly warned that the 5th wave could lead, in the darkest scenario, to 25,000 daily infections and 1,500 beds of ATI occupied in mid-January. It should be noted that in wave 4, caused by the Delta variant, all INSP scenarios were far outdated.

At the last press conference in 2021, the Minister of Health, Alexandru Rafila, acknowledged that the increase in the number of cases could not be stopped and that there are “many unknowns” regarding the evolution that Omicron will have in Romania.

“The hope is to have a reduced pathogenicity and to be able to get over this wave 5 more easily”, concluded the Minister of Health, without saying what his hope is based on.

photo source: Pexels

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