UPDATE. After feverish debate, Romania parliament passes quarantine bill as Covid-19 cases spike

Foto: INQUAM/George Călin

After weeks of political wrangling when hundreds of Covid-19 patients voluntarily discharged themselves from hospital, Romania’s Parliament has passed a law to enforce quarantine and isolation amid a surge in infections.

Senators voted 115-8 with 3 abstentions late Thursday in favor of new legislation that spells out when people can be quarantined or placed in self-isolation.

The law, which can be challenged at the constitutional court, allows those quarantined or put in isolation to challenge the decision in court. A court will decide, based on a medic’s recommendation, whether quarantine is justified.

The ruling Liberal Party, which lacks a parliamentary majority, has been pushing for the new legislation to give authorities tools to handle the health crisis.

But the opposition Social Democrats accuse the government of violating fundamental rights and have urged for virus-related restrictions to be lifted.

Under the bill, patients with mild symptoms will have the option of isolating at home, or at another place, under medical supervision for 48 hours before a medic assesses the risk of transmission. They will be allowed to leave their homes after a medical check.

People arriving in Romania from high risk countries will be placed in quarantine or can self isolate at home or at another designated place.

The bill says that isolation measures need to be adopted for an unspecified limited period, „in accordance with the situation determining them.” 

The purpose of isolation is to prevent the spread of a disease that could endanger individual or public health.

Parliament’s move follows a Constitutional Court ruling, which came into force earlier this month, creating a legislative void and leaving authorities unable to make sick patients stay in hospital.  

The court ruled that hospitalizing and quarantining people without or with just mild symptoms violated fundamental rights and the government did not have the authority to enforce it.  

As a result of the ruling, 757 patients, who tested positive for the virus, voluntarily discharged themselves from hospital, increasing the risk of infecting others, Health Minister Nelu Tataru said.

Tens of thousands of Romanians who were in self-isolation after returning from countries with high numbers of Covid-19 cases also left their homes in defiance of doctors’ recommendations.

Romania reported a record 777 cases on Thursday, the biggest daily increase since the pandemic started.

The total number of infections in the country of some 19 million is 35,003, while 1,971 people have died.

Romania declared a strict two-month lockdown until May but then began to loosen restrictions, and infections spiked in mid-June.

President Klaus Iohannis who urged lawmakers to make a new law a priority, needs to sign off on the legislation.

Masks are compulsory in indoor public spaces and restaurants with no outside tables and cinemas remain closed. Large public gatherings are also banned.


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