An e-mail sent to public health officials claiming to come from the head of Romania’s emergency services which suggested officials make up the number of coronavirus cases and deaths is false, the government said Monday.
The interior ministry’s Strategic Communication Group said the statement which had come to their attention was “a false message” attributed to Raed Arafat, head of Romania’s Department for Emergency Situations, and sent to public health authorities around the country.
The message “left the impression that Arafat wanted to request that the Public Health Directorate reported the number of infections and deaths at their discretion,” the group said.
Arafat is on the front line of Romania’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. He’s an outspoken critic of people who downplay or deny the virus which has sickened 32,948 people and led to 1,908 deaths.
He has challenged “virus deniers” to visit intensive-care units where seriously ill patients are treated. On Sunday commenting on an anti-mask and anti-quarantine protest, he said, „We’ll see you at hospital.”
He regularly appeals to Romanians to wear face coverings and social distance and warns that the new infections will otherwise escalate.
Last week, he said: “The only way to control the virus without the restrictive measures which nobody wants is for the public to be cooperative and respect the rules, and not pay attention to all the stupid things on social media.”
“It’s increasing, it’s not even stable. In the last 14 days, it’s gone up by 30% if I’m not mistaken.”
The message which was falsely attributed to Arafat was sent from an address which imitated the real email address, @mai.gav.ro instead of @mai.gov.ro.
Authorities asked the press not to disseminate “this kind of message which is especially created to suggest the idea that the figures reported publicly aren’t real.”