Romanian cobbler makes size-75 winter boots to stamp out COVID-19

CLUJ, Romania (Reuters) - A Romanian cobbler who made giant shoes to help keep people apart during the first wave of COVID-19 has come up with a new line of huge winter boots to stamp out the second onslaught of the disease.

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Grigore Lup said the shoes he launched in May in a European size 75 had sold across the world and helped keep his store afloat in the Transylvanian city of Cluj.

He started making them when he noticed people were standing too close together and ignoring social distancing rules. Two people facing each other in his elongated footwear would be forced to stand just under two metres apart.

On top of regular orders, he said he also got calls from performers - including a Belgian dance group and a U.S. rock band - and a number of people who just had very big feet.

“I also got a lot of orders from people with large shoe sizes. They figured that if I can make a size 75 I can also make a size 50,” said Lup.

Now he has come up with long-nosed winter boots, also size 75, so people can keep stepping out separately in the cold. Each pair costs 150 euros ($180).

“Compared with the shoes, the boots are taller, fur-lined and have thicker soles,” he said. “They need as much leather as three regular pairs of shoes.”

Romania, which has reported 492,211 coronavirus cases since late-February and 11,876 deaths, has closed schools, theatres and restaurants, made wearing a mask mandatory in all public spaces and imposed a curfew to cope with the second wave.

“I think in the beginning people didn’t really understand, but since they made masks mandatory on the street the situation seems a little more stable. The vaccine will rid us of this,” said Lup, who has been making custom leather footwear for almost 40 years.

Before the pandemic, he relied on orders from theatres and opera houses, as well as traditional folk dance ensembles - but that business slowed as COVID-19 restrictions shuttered live events.

($1 = 0.8229 euros)

Reporting by Luiza Ilie; editing by Andrew Heavens