Since the coronavirus pandemic erupted, Romania, like other countries, has placed hundreds of thousands of people in quarantine, both those entering the country and residents living in virus hotspots around the country.
But a ruling from Romania’s top court on Thursday has raised questions about whether the government has the legal authority to enforce quarantine to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The Constitutional Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for the health ministry to issue “an administrative order” imposing quarantine as it violated basic human rights.
In a politically-motivated move, Romania’s ombudsman, headed by an official who is opposed to the Liberal government, asked the court to declare the measure unconstitutional, arguing restrictions needed to be clearly defined in law, including who could impose quarantine, in what conditions, and for how long.
The ruling does not immediately change anything, and the government said it was waiting for the court to publish a written motivation.
Reacting to the ruling, Prime Minister Ludovic Orban on Thursday insisted the government was within the law to impose quarantine where it deemed necessary.
He referred to a May 15 law that authorizes the government to implement measures to handle the crisis and “lays out the legitimacy of these measures,” he said.
“Where would Romania be if we hadn’t been able to safeguard people’s health by being able to isolate and send those coming from abroad into quarantine?” he said.
“I recall one quarantine center where there were 30 people from Italy. Six tested positive (for Covid-19). How would it have been if we couldn’t have placed them in quarantine?
On Thursday, there were more than 1,100 people in institutionalized quarantine, with 72,650 in lockdown at home, under medical supervision, authorities said.
Currently, travelers from high-risk countries such as the U.S, Britain and Spain have to undergo a 14-day period of quarantine when they enter Romania.
Romania lifted quarantine restrictions for travelers from 22 European countries this month, including France, Germany, Austria and Hungary.
Every week, the government reviews the situation and decides which countries to add or take off the quarantine list.
The government has also imposed local lockdowns in recent months in places where there have been outbreaks of the virus.
Health Minister Nelu Tataru said he was “surprised about the court ruling, but I don’t comment on judges decisions.”
„All measures taken by the Romanian government, the health ministry…. are aimed at limiting the number of infections and spread of the disease. We are waiting for the written motivation for this ruling.”