UPDATE. Schools, flights to and from Italy suspended as Romanian officials declare 3 cases of suspected coronavirus at the government offices

Inquam Photos / Alberto Grosescu

Romanian authorities announced Monday that schools would be suspended during March in an effort to contain an outbreak of coronavirus as the number of people infected climbed to 17.

Acting Prime Minister Ludovic Orban said schools would be closed from March 11-22, with the shutdown extended after that. He called it „a preventive measure.”

The announcement came after several universities said they were suspending classes this month over fears that coronavirus might spread.

Earlier, Orban said that three people who work at the Romanian government headquarters were suspected of having the coronavirus after they came into contact with a 42-year-old chef there who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Ludovic Orban said that two people who worked or the secretary general’s office and a person who worked in the catering department may be sick with the virus.

Earlier, Bucharest Mayor Gabriela Firea said the woman in question prepared meals for government officials at the Victory Palace government headquarters in downtown Bucharest.

“ I don’t think her protection measures were anything other than normal,” Firea said. “She cooked meals for all the government employees including dignitaries,” Firea was quoted as telling Mediafax news agency.

Health officials asked the woman to self-isolate at home and questioned people at the government offices who she had come in contact with on Monday.

The news came a day after the government announced it was suspending all flights between Romania and Italy for two weeks in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus, the interior minister said.

Interior Minister Marcel Vela said flights to and from Italy would be suspended from midday March 9 to midday-March 23. There are an estimated one million Romanians living in Italy.

Fifteen people have tested positive for coronavirus in Romania. They all traveled from Italy  came into contact with people who had been there There are 27 people in quarantine and 12,800 people in self-isolation at home.

Authorities have also said that passengers traveling from China, Iran, Italy and South Korea will be placed in quarantine.

People entering Romania will be asked to sign a declaration saying they haven’t come from a quarantined area.

Air carriers are obliged to stop foreign nationals boarding if they have a layover in Italy, China, Iran and South Korea, the interior ministry said.

Vela called on Romanians returning to the country to accurately declare where they are coming from.

“On the air routes it is easy to check the route of a person. On rail and road routes it is more complicated,” he said. “I’m making an appeal to fellow citizens; they are responsible for the health of their families. They should not do what a Romanian citizen did when saying that he was returning from Germany but was coming from Italy and was infected.”

Authorities also said that if any school reports a case of coronavirus, classes will automatically be suspended.



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