Court ruling on coronavirus spurs Romanians to leave quarantine
Government scrambles to pass new control measures and fight public scepticism
Romanian prime minister Ludovic Orban: “Unfortunately in recent months we have faced organised campaigns aimed at making Romanians not believe in the virus, not follow the rules we established.” Photograph:EPA/Robert Ghement
Romania’s leaders have urged the nation to respect health guidelines and ignore misinformation and conspiracy theories playing down the seriousness of coronavirus, as hundreds of people left hospital and tens of thousands stopped self-isolating after the country’s top court quashed strict quarantine rules.
The return of many potentially infectious people to the community comes as Romania sees a surge in coronavirus, with its three biggest daily rises in new cases coming in the last three days. On Friday, 592 new cases were reported, bringing the national total to 31,381, of which 1,847 have proved fatal.
Romania’s constitutional court decided that the government’s control measures breached citizens’ fundamental rights by confining infected people with mild or no symptoms of Covid-19 to hospital, and obliging possible carriers to stay in a quarantine centre or self-isolation.
In response, the lower house of parliament passed a bill laying out new health provisions on Thursday evening, and the upper house started debating it on Friday, with a vote expected over the weekend.
Since the court verdict came into force a week ago, however, hundreds of people with Covid-19 have discharged themselves from hospital and more than 30,000 have left quarantine or self-isolation, according to Romanian health minister Nelu Tataru.
Prime minister Ludovic Orban said his centrist cabinet’s pandemic response efforts had been undermined at every turn by the opposition Social Democrats (PSD), who were ousted from government last year after a bitter scrap for power. He also accused the constitutional court of doing the bidding of the populist PSD.
“All ministries involved in the anti-Covid battle must be mobilised to the maximum and use all legal instruments in order to reduce the number of people infected,” Mr Orban told his cabinet on Thursday.
“Unfortunately in recent months we have faced organised campaigns aimed at making Romanians not believe in the virus, not follow the rules we established, ignore the danger and we see that, unfortunately, these campaigns have had consequences,” he said earlier this week. “The virus does not spare anyone. It does not spare those who do not believe in it.”
President Klaus Iohannis also urged his compatriots to act responsibly and ignore claims that the virus was a hoax or was being exploited by politicians, who in general enjoy very little trust among Romanians.
“The virus is real...and it won’t disappear simply because we deny its existence,” he said, while urging parliament to approve the new health controls as quickly as possible.
“It is time to set aside political differences and concentrate on solutions which are absolutely necessary in this period.
“I call on parliament to urgently debate the law clarifying quarantine and isolation so as to give back to the authorities this extremely important instrument during the pandemic.”