Romania has gradually eased out of a strict lockdown in the last month.
Malls, parks, churches, beaches, private schools, outdoor cafes, outdoor pools, and other places have reopened. But not so restaurants with inside seating despite protests by chefs and warnings from hospitality managers that coronavirus pandemic has dealt the sector a grave blow.
With the summer season underway, there were hopes that restaurants would finally start serving again on July 1.
With thousands of restaurants and hotels still closed or operating under strict conditions for the past three months, the hospitality sector has dropped by a 75% since March, economists say.
However, Economy Minister Virgil Popescu said that authorities may postpone the reopening, amid a spike in new Covid-19 cases.
“Last week’s numbers are worrying, (daily) cases have multiplied, exceeding 300, “ he told Digi 24 on Tuesday. “Today was the first day with less than 300 cases.
He said the government would take a decision based on a risk evaluation from the National Institute of Public Health and the health ministry.
Romania confirmed more than 300 new cases for five days in a row last week. It dropped to 214 on Tuesday, but the number of patients in intensive care has gradually crept up to 200. Some 1,539 patients have succumbed to the virus.
Popescu said further restrictions would be lifted only if Romanians followed the rules, such as wearing face masks in enclosed public spaces and physical distancing. Compliance with the measures, designed to stop the spread of the virus, has been erratic.
“I urge Romanians to respect the rules because then the relaxation plan can continue, and we can open restaurants, cinemas,” he said.
In a nod to public disregard of the rules, Popescu said the government may wait two weeks before giving the green light.
His comments came after similar warnings from Raed Arafat, who heads the emregncy situations department and Health Minuster Nelu Tataru.