far-right protesters oppose COVID workplace passes


BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) – Hundreds of far-right protesters gathered in Romania’s capital Bucharest on Tuesday to oppose a bill that would introduce ‘green certificates’ to workplaces, which , officials say, will limit the spread of coronavirus infections and prevent another collapse of the country’s healthcare system.

Romania, a European Union country of about 19 million people, faced its deadliest wave of coronavirus infections and deaths in October and November when intensive care units across the country pulled out been inundated with COVID-19 patients and hospital mortuaries ran out of space.


In response to the unfolding disaster, authorities tightened restrictions at the end of October, and daily cases of the coronavirus have since fallen to their lowest since August. Authorities are now looking for ways to avoid another sinister wave of the virus – now a real concern after Romania confirmed more than a dozen cases of the omicron coronavirus variant.

Romania’s new coalition government is discussing a bill that would require people going to their workplaces to present green certificates – obtained with proof of full vaccination, a cure from COVID-19 or a negative test. They would be introduced after three consecutive weeks of increasing COVID-19 infection rate and once a certain incident rate is exceeded.

Only 40% of the Romanian population, or 7.7 million people, have received two doses of a vaccine against the coronavirus. Some 2 million of them also received the booster dose considered necessary to control the omicron variant.

The mostly maskless protesters, who converged outside the parliament building, waved national tricolor flags in red, yellow and blue, blocked traffic and chanted “Freedom! Chaos briefly ensued as dozens of people forced their way into the courtyard of the parliament building and some tried to gain access to the building but were arrested by riot police.

The protest brought together various right-wing groups, including supporters of the Romanian nationalist party AUR, which holds seats in parliament. In a video posted online from the protest, AUR co-chair George Simion urged people to “stand with us today to block the green certificate” and called the bill “unconstitutional”.

“Alongside the AUR, on the side of people who have a straight head – who want justice,” he said.

The Romanian Ministry of Health said in a press release on Monday that the adoption of the COVID-19 digital certificate law “must take into account the interest of public health” but also respond to “the proper functioning of the ‘economy’.

During the winter holidays, hundreds of thousands of Romanians living abroad are expected to return home, prompting authorities to put in place passenger tracking forms on Monday to improve the traceability of infections. In 24 hours, more than 100,000 forms were completed.

Beatrice Mahler, director of the Marius Nasta Institute of Pulmonology Hospital in Bucharest, which has been on the front lines of the pandemic, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that her hospital was busy disinfecting the wards, fixing the medical equipment and overhaul the medical oxygen supply.

“This moment is sensitive and critical,” said Mahler. “I hope that the experience of past waves will be the one that will empower us (…) and understand that testing is mandatory if we want to protect our loved ones.”

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Follow all of AP’s stories about the coronavirus pandemic on https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.

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