Spain has so far been one of the usual countries in the leading positions in the negative ‘rankings’ related to covid. With an average of 68.6 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants, our country continues to stand out in the list of countries in the European Union with more infections per capita in the last two weeks, a list in which only two countries surpass us. The first is Luxembourg, with a shocking figure of more than 200 cases for every 100,000 inhabitants that its authorities explain for its small population and high tests, which distort the statistics. The other is Romania. With a rate of 81.7 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants and a totally unleashed curve, it far surpasses Spain and doubles the rest of the most affected countries in the EU, from Belgium to Sweden. A resurgence that coincides with a wave of protests against the “medical dictatorship” fueled by the conspiracy narrative that doubts the very existence of the virus.Like the rest of Eastern Europe, Romania overcame the first phase of the pandemic with surprising solvency. While in countries with higher levels of civility and better health systems such as Spain, Italy, Belgium or the United Kingdom, hundreds of people died every day from covid, the governments of ex-communist Europe were crossing the peak of the pandemic with a much smaller number. of deaths per inhabitant.
But things seem to have changed in this second rush of the virus, which is distributing infections throughout the continent in a more distributed way and threatens to provoke a catastrophe in the Balkan country. From registering 523 cases on the worst day during the peak of the pandemic in April, Romania has gone on to report every day of more than 1,000 new infections daily at the end of July and early August, in a country of 19 million inhabitants.
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With 55,241 cases and 2,480 deaths in total, Romania is still a long way from countries where the virus has been most deadly. But the numbers are also not reassuring and are getting worse. This Tuesday there was a record of daily deaths and the average stands at 2.0 deaths for every 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days, becoming the country with more deaths per capita by covid of the entire European Union, followed at a long distance by the 1.3 of the United Kingdom, which still enters the European Center for Disease Control (ECDC) classifications; and the 1.1 from Sweden.
Table of infections and deaths of the ECDC, updated to Tuesday, August 4.
What has changed in Romania so that will go from recording a tiny number of cases daily, compared to that of Spain, to being the only country in the European Union that currently worsens our disastrous numbers? According to the Government of Bucharest, which continues to congratulate itself on its management of the crisis, the reasons for this negative drift must be found in three factors.
Fugitives from quarantine
One of them is, according to the official version, the sabotaging attitude of a Constitutional Court where the judges related to the opposition of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) they have a majority. In a decision widely criticized by the center-right minority government of the National Liberal Party (PNL), the Romanian Constitutional declared on June 25 unconstitutional the so-called “Quarantine Law”, which the authorities used to intern compulsively those infected with covid and to impose mandatory isolation measures on suspected cases.
As a consequence of the court’s decision, which it invoked to justify its defects in form, Romania was close to three weeks without a law in force that allowed it to confine covid patients and limit the social contact of those who could have contracted it.
During the time this legal vacuum lasted, the health authorities recorded more than 4,000 carriers of the virus that they left, against the opinion of doctors, the hospitals where they had been admitted or They refused to be interned. In addition, some 30,000 people suspected of contracting the virus renounced the isolation regime prescribed for them by the authorities as there was no law to compel them to respect it.
The verdict was an “obvious” catalyst for the rebound in cases in Romania, according to Dr. Doina Azocai, president of the Romanian Society for Epidemiology. “It is clear that this contributes to the rapid transmission of the virus,” says Azocai in an interview with El Confidencial.
Two young men in Bucharest, Romania. (EFE)
The government finally succeeded in adopting a new quarantine law by Parliament on July 16, after ten days of Byzantine debates during which the PSD, the majority party in both houses, delayed the final vote on the legislative bill. .
And here comes the second factor behind the rebound according to the official account of the Romanian government and presidency.
War with the socialist opposition
“Unhappy with the achievements of the PNL government [en el Gobierno], the PSD wanted to create a health crisis to have reason to criticize the government “, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis has been accused of the alleged boycott of the opposition. “The PSD does not care that thousands of Romanians have become ill, that hundreds of Romanians have died,” he insisted, in an intervention criticized by some as a Opportunistic signaling by the opposition used by the President to shirk his responsibility and that of the Government in managing the increasingly flaring pandemic.
Romanian sociologist Gelu Duminca is one of the voices who have censured that Iohannis and his government limit themselves to blaming the opposition for the outbreaks instead of seeking solutions and assuming their own mistakes. According to Duminica, the entire political class, including the president and the government, is responsible for the third factor that according to Iohannis and his prime minister, Ludovic Orban, allows us to understand the rebound: the lack of citizen awareness.
Two students on a terrace in Bucharest, Romania. (EFE)
In recent weeks, the local press has reported the systematic violation of social distancing on beaches and the discos of the Romanian coast, as well as in weddings and other private celebrations that do not respect the capacity limitations.
The reluctance on the part of the population to use masks indoors is another cause for concern for Romanian authorities, who in recent days have fined thousands of people and companies for bypassing regulations. “This attitude has not appeared out of nowhere,” says sociologist Duminica, who attributes excessive and sometimes reckless relaxation of the population to the erosion of the message of unity around the dangerousness of the virus that marked public discourse in the first three pandemic months.
After what seemed the worst moments in April and May, “the political, civic and religious class has not had the same relatively unitary message” and has been characterized by not setting an example regarding health recommendations.
The sociologist cites as examples the prime minister himself, who appeared without a mask and smoking in a meeting with his government inside the office, and two opposition legislators who were recorded refusing to put on the mask in a fast food establishment. Nor have they helped, in his opinion, the recent statements of some opposition politicians doubting the virus danger, warning of the privacy risk of thermometers with which the temperature of customers in supermarkets is measured or attributing the restrictions imposed to control the pandemic to the totalitarian authoritarianism of the Government.
Protesters are traditionalist nationalists and Orthodox religious sometimes linked to the anti-vaccine movement
“For the people to demonstrate civility, they must understand the magnitude of what is at stake,” says Duminica.
Under these circumstances, a skeptical movement who in recent weeks has brought together hundreds of people on the streets to denounce the alleged abuses of democratic freedoms that the Government is perpetrating with the pandemic as a pretext.
Scenes at the protests. The sign reads: ‘Mengele was also a doctor.’ (Mihai Isac)
Many of the participants in these protests, which are not organized in any association and are mobilized through Facebook, they are traditionalist nationalists and orthodox religious sometimes linked to the anti-vaccine movement, very visible in Romanian society.
A “medical dictatorship”
These protesters see the quarantine law and measures such as the obligation to wear face masks an unacceptable violation of the liberties of citizens that is leading to the establishment in Romania of a “medical dictatorship”. In their Sunday gatherings in front of the Government headquarters in Bucharest they have carried banners with slogans such as “I believe in God, not in the covid”, “Mengele was also a doctor” or “All parties are the same virus.”
Another of its slogans links restrictions of freedoms around the world to fight the pandemic with the imposition of neo-Marxism: “Russian tanks brought communism; neo-communism will arrive on an island [la camilla cubierta con que se traslada a los infectados de covid en Rumanía]”.
Russian tanks brought communism, neo-communism will arrive on a medical stretcher
Although it does not have the open support of any party, this movement is related to the more conservative sectors of the PSD, It is increasingly visible in the Romanian media and has penetrated a significant part of the population.
According to a recent survey, a third of Romanian society has doubts about the existence of the coronavirus, while 12% are convinced that the virus does not exist.