Thousands marched in Bucharest on Saturday to protest restrictions that began on Sunday to counter the surge in coronavirus infections.
The European nation of 19 million is seeing a startling rise in the daily number of coronavirus cases. A month ago, the number was around 1,000 new cases a day. On Saturday, Romania recorded more than 12,500 new cases, its highest number since the pandemic began in March 2020.
Protesters, mostly masked, gathered outside government offices, shouting, “Freedom, freedom without certificates,” and “down with the government,” according to Reuters. A sign read: “Green Certificate = Dictatorship,” The Associated Press reported.
The demonstration was organized by Romania’s right-wing AUR party, the AP said.
Rising cases have strained the nation’s hospitals – intensive care beds are nearly full – and the protests angered some medical workers.
“The situation in hospitals is critical,” Beatrice Mahler, hospital manager at Bucharest’s Marius Nastas Institute of Pneumology, told the AP. “We have patients hospitalized in beds in the hallway – all with extremely severe forms of COVID-19.”
Restrictions that take effect on Sunday include wearing masks in public and closing shops at 10 p.m. local time.
Public places such as restaurants, theaters and gyms can remain open – some only at partial capacity – to customers who have had COVID-19, meaning they are fully vaccinated or show evidence that they have the coronavirus. disease caused by.
Romania has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the European Union; 33.5% of all adults are fully vaccinated, second only to Bulgaria.
Reuters said there is a weekend curfew for unvaccinated Romanians, and plans to make vaccinations mandatory for health care workers.
Since the pandemic began, Romania has recorded nearly 1,250,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 37,000 have died, according to the Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center.
Russia’s Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said on Saturday that some paperwork needed to be completed before its Sputnik V vaccine could be registered with the World Health Organization (WHO).
The shot is approved in more than 70 countries and is widely used in Russia. If it receives approval from the WHO and the European Medicines Agency, it could make it available in other markets, Reuters said.
The WHO could not immediately be reached for comment, Reuters said.
Cuban manufacturer BiocubaPharma said on Saturday that Nicaragua has cured two Cuban-made vaccines for use in the Central American nation.
Cuba developed three coronavirus vaccines, all of which are awaiting official recognition by the WHO, Reuters reported. Nicaragua authorizes Abdala and Sobrana for emergency use.
Iran, Vietnam and Venezuela have also fine-tuned Cuban vaccines for emergency use in their countries.
Some information for this report has been received from The Associated Press and Reuters.