Romanian President Klaus Iohannis has urged Romanians to wear face masks to protect themselves against the novel coronavirus.
But he’s left himself open to attack after images appeared of the Romanian leader not wearing a mask at a four-day European Union summit this week.
The opposition Social Democratic Party, media outlets that support the Social Democrats and others seized the opportunity to criticize Iohannis after a picture was published of him next to French President Emmanuel Macron and other leaders who were all wearing face coverings.
The presidential office responded to the criticism saying: “In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic the European Council meeting took place in conditions of maximum security, but wearing a mask during plenary sessions and other smaller meeting was optional and not obligatory, as could be seen in video and photos taken during the council.”
“However, during the four days and nights of intense negotiations, the Romanian president as well as other European leaders put on a mask, with some exceptions, for a limited amount of time.”
Iohannis secured 80 billion euros from the European Union recovery fund, more than many other EU members, but his critics chastised him after Poland was awarded double the sum.
There were images of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel, neither wearing masks, and bumping elbows after addressing a media conference at the EU summit, but they did not attract less interest in Romania.
The face mask episode is embarrassing for Iohannis who regularly appeals to Romanians to mask up and respect physical distancing measures to stem the spread of the virus which has sickened more than 42,000 people in Romania.
„The bad news is that we have more than 1,000 cases of coronavirus,” he said on July 22 a day after the summit ended. “ It’s very sad, but sadness won’t resolve anything. We can resolve it by respecting distancing measures, wearing masks. It depends on all of us to slow the spread of the epidemic.”