UPDATE. No traffic, empty restaurants, quiet airport: how coronavirus has turned life upside down in Romania

Coronavirus, Carrefour

A handful of people traipse through Ikea, and Romania’s busiest restaurant at the store is almost empty. Bucharest airport seems deserted, and restaurant revenues have plunged by up to 80% as people stay home. Even the traffic in one of Europe’s most chaotic capitals is a shadow of its usual self.

In a matter of days, coronavirus panic has disrupted everyday life in Romania and around the world.

If some businesses, like the hotel industry have been hard-hit by the novel coronavirus, others are thriving on people’s fears as fresh infections provoke alarm. By Friday, the number of cases in Romania had risen to 82.

Several shopping malls announced they would be staying open for eight hours a day, instead of 12.


Customers descend on German supermarket Lidl at 7.30 am to buy up the fresh supplies of water, milk and oil that arrived on huge trucks during the night. There are throngs of people at Mega Image and customers at Carrefour push around shopping carts loaded with goods that will last them months.

Shoppers are mass buying bottled water, toilet rolls, disinfectant, oil and flour. Fine wines and French cheeses are ignored. There are queues at pharmacies as people buy medicine for diseases: real, imagined or just in case.


On Friday morning at the Henri Coanda airport, travelers could admire the refurbished building and the architecture. For once, it was not heaving with passengers.

Tarom employees wore surgical masks and gloves. „I think people are scared and staying away,” a Tarom employee, who was checking in people, said.

Tourists and travelers are avoiding making trips for fear not only of catching the disease, which has a 3.4% mortality rate according to the World Health Organization on March 3, but mostly because they think they may be forced into quarantine or flights will be suspended or the country will go into lockdown.

Already many airlines have suspended flights with new cancellations every day.


Around Romania, restaurant revenues have dropped by 20% to 80%, as customers stay home over fears that they could catch coronavirus if they go out, said Daniel Mischie, the chairman of the Romanian Hotel and Restaurant Employers Organization.

Authorities have shut schools and banned mass gatherings. This has led to the postponement of many private events, such as exhibitions, birthday parties, and anniversary events.

“The situation is very difficult for operators,” said Mischie, who is also CEO of local restaurant chain City Grill, local Profit.ro reported. “Unfortunately there are situations where the managers have taken measures to fire employees,” he added.


He predicts that revenues will continue to take a hit as the number of infections rise. The association has asked the government to make European funds available as loans for the restaurant and tourism industry.

President Klaus Iohannis this week urged people to be calm, to avoid panic buying and disregard fake news. He said an inter-instiutional group was trying to identify and find solutions for hardest-hit parts of the economy.


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