Shouting “Our children aren’t your guinea pigs,” hundreds of Romanians, including parents with young children, staged protests around the country against the mandatory use of face masks in schools.
The government imposed the measure this week when schools reopened to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Coronavirus cases have spiked in recent days, including a record high of 1,713 on Wednesday, in the week that schools reopened for the academic year.
But protesters who gathered outside the government offices and at University Square in Bucharest on Saturday evening said the new mask requirement was reminiscent of the communist period and Nazi regime. There were smaller protests in the cities of Cluj, Timisoara and Oradea.
„Children are trained… like animals. This the new school program: in a cage and with a muzzle,” one protester in Bucharest said.
They chanted slogans against President Klaus Iohannis and Prime Minister Ludovic Orban, yelling “You thieves!’’
Protesters who weren’t wearing masks or respecting physical distancing rules waved Romanian flags, sang the national anthem and some carried crossses. They held banners saying: “Down with the muzzle. Paws off our children,” and “I breathe, I think, I live freely,” Mediafax news agency reported.
Award-winning Romanian filmmaker Cristi Puiu and actress Carmen Tanase joined the protest in Bucharest.
Some 2.8 million schoolchildren started the new school year on Monday, with classes being held in classrooms, online or a combination of the two, depending on the number of cases in the area.
Desks have to be distanced and masks are mandatory for students and teachers.
Local elections for mayors and local councilors, scheduled for June, were postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic will be held on Sept. 27.