Face masks are mandatory in Romania and it’s not the moment to take them off, health minister says

Foto: INQUAM/Virgil SImionescu

Wearing masks outside has become compulsory _ and second nature_for the majority of Romanians since the coronavirus pandemic spread across the world in late February.

Starting May 15, authorities made it mandatory for Romanians to wear face masks when they are in enclosed public spaces, such as shops, on public transport or in offices.

Masks are believed to be a barrier against the highly contagious airborne virus which is transmitted through coughs, sneezes and even talking.

Most people have complied with the measure, and for 2.3 million Romanians who can’t afford the extra expense, the government is providing two months’ worth of free masks.

But as Romania eases restrictions which were imposed to stem the spread of the virus, there are questions about when people can stop wearing the face coverings.

Not yet, said Health Minister Nelu Tataru on Thursday. He said authorities would scrap the rule when there were no more outbreaks. He didn’t give an estimated date or provide more details.

He also stressed the need for people to keep a two-meter distance from each other, a measure that has been less respected.

Romania reported 238 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, the first time in almost three weeks when the daily count has gone above 200. There have now been 19,907 cases and 1,299 deaths.

Asked about when quarantine for people coming into Romania, Tataru said it was premature to lift the restriction.

However, he said that after June 15 when Romanians return home “from certain countries” it may no longer be necessary, adding that a decision hadn’t been taken yet.

The minister said hospitals would resume normal activity as new infections went down.

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