Romania eases out of Covid-19 lockdown, but restrictions, questions remain

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Inquam Photos / Octav Ganea

Romania lifted more restrictions on Monday both at home and for travelers to the country, but says some restrictions must remain to keep the spread of the coronavirus in check.

Malls, private schools, kindergartens, fitness centers and outdoor swimming pools were allowed to reopen on Monday, although masks are still compulsory in indoor public places. Cinemas and indoor restaurants remain closed, and regular church services are still not allowed.

However, it was unclear whether Romania would extend the state of alert which gives authorities more leeway to put in place measures to limit the spread of the virus. The minority Liberal government wants the state of alert to remain, but opposition parties say they will vote against it later Monday.

Easing travel restrictions, Romania on Monday lifted a requirement for tourists and travelers from 17 European countries to undergo a two-week period of quarantine or self-isolation when they arrive in the country.

The development came as European countries such as France, Germany, Belgium and Greece, also opened its borders on Monday following the lockdown which began in March.

Romania says people entering the country from Austria, Germany, Czechia, Hungary, Switzerland, Slovakia and elsewhere are exempt from quarantine.

However, travelers from countries such as Spain, Italy, Britain, France and the U.S. which have higher numbers of coronavirus infections still have to go into quarantine.

Even with the long-awaited reopening of Romania’s popular malls, there were complaints about the way the managers of shopping centers treated retail owners during the three-month lockdown.

Members of the Romanian Retail Employers’ Organization say they will not reopen to protest what they call unfair behavior of some malls which insisted on charging the full rent despite the three-month closure.

Romania ordered malls to close on March 16 as one of the measures adopted under the state of emergency. Supermarkets and pharmacies located inside malls were open during the lockdown, but required customers to wear masks and keep a distance from other people.

Some managers of shopping centers rescheduled or reduced rent payments, while others demanded rent and started foreclosure procedures against tenants, the organization said.

„We demand fairness and solidarity. We demand normality: zero rent for the period in which we were not allowed to use these spaces,” said Cosmin Savu Cristescu, who heads the organization.

“We think of our employees. We think of our customers who want our products and deserve a variety of offers. We are thinking of Romanian entrepreneurs – suppliers, producers, traders – who deserve a market share in their own country,” Cristescu said.

The organization is pressing for a new agreement between non-food retailers and mall owners, with zero rent while retail activity was suspended, and rent to be based on traffic and sales, after the opening of stores.

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