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Romania set to make protective masks mandatory outdoors to curb coronavirus spread

FILE PHOTO: A volunteer sets up a UV-C light emitting device for disinfecting the space inside Saint Pantelimon Orthodox Church, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Bucharest, Romania, May 16, 2020. Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea via REUTERS

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania’s government plans to introduce new measures to help try to contain a spike in coronavirus cases, including shortening working hours for outdoor pubs and restaurants and making the wearing of protective masks outside mandatory, officials said.

A government emergency committee said late on Tuesday it would ask authorities to approve closing down outdoors bars by 2300 local time and making protective masks mandatory outside at certain times and locations where places could be crowded.

The number of coronavirus infections in Romania has exceeded 1,000 new cases each day for the last week, lifting confirmed cases to 47,053 since the pandemic reached the country in late February. Some 2,239 people have died.

The European Union member country has extended a state of alert until the middle of August, and local authorities have placed several small towns and villages under localised quarantine.

Masks are already mandatory in public transport and indoor public spaces, but compliance has been relatively low, officials said. The emergency committee would also like better enforcement of social distancing guidelines at resorts on Romania’s Black Sea coastline.

Health Minister Nelu Tataru said on Tuesday the number of new cases should begin to fall within two to three weeks if the rules are followed.

A legislative void that enabled thousands of infected people to walk out of hospitals or not be treated at all for most of July was in part responsible for this month’s spike. The void has since been solved through a new parliamentary bill.

Another reason was a relative lack of compliance with social distancing rules and wearing protective masks in closed spaces. Earlier this week, prosecutors opened into an investigation into a man who travelled to the Black Sea coast despite coming from a village which has been placed under quarantine.

Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell