Romanian president says COVID-19 lockdown may be eased, tears into plan to separate elderly from families


Romanian President Klaus Iohannis on Tuesday spoke for the first time about relaxing a lockdown imposed in mid-March to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

If infections and deaths decrease after May 15 when a two-month state of emergency ends, “it’s clear we can enter a phase of relaxation,” Iohannis said.

However, he cautioned: “it won’t be a sudden relaxation, it will be done in steps, because specialists say this virus doesn’t disappear and we will have to continue to live with certain restrictions,” he added.

He said the government would lift restrictions based on recommendations from specialists at the health ministry.

Romanian authorities closed restaurants, bars and malls, asked people to work from home, suspended flights, sports events and church services to contain the spread of the virus.

Romania is the worst hit country in the region with some 9,242 confirmed cases on Tuesday and 482 deaths.

People need to carry signed forms when going out to justify their trip, and elderly people are only allowed out for two hours a day, except in the case of an emergency.

Referring to the elderly in his first public appearance after Easter, Iohannis tore into a plan to separate elderly people from their families during the coronavirus pandemic, calling it “an aberrant, unacceptable, totalitarian measure.”

A document written by Adrian Streinu-Cercel, head of the Matei Bals Infectious Diseases Institute in Bucharest, which was leaked to the press this weekend, proposed that people over 65 should be quarantined and even taken away from their families to protect them against the coronavirus.

„My dears, this is not happening, it is unacceptable! We live in a free society, a society that protects itself from the epidemic. There’s no way we will come forward with such totalitarian measures!” he said, asking elderly people to remain calm.

„No one comes to take you from your home, to quarantine you! No one comes to impose inhuman things on you!”

“There is no way the state will impose such measures which shouldn’t even be discussed in a 21st century society.”

Iohannis thanked people for respecting the social distancing measures during the Easter holidays and not going on to the streets or heading to locked churches to celebrate the feast..

“I am very glad to see that we have all succeeded together, in doing what we have set out to do _ stay home and celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord as best we could during this pandemic,” Iohannis said.

He also thanked priests for helping keep worshipers at home for the holidays, and healthcare workers for treating COVID-19 patients.


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