Stricter pandemic rules came into force in Romania on Saturday amid surging coronavirus cases, including a requirement to wear surgical or FFP2 masks at both indoor and outdoor public spaces.
The decision made by the National Council for Emergency Situations (CNSU) this week makes textile masks illegal in the Eastern European nation. Hefty fines of up to €500 ($567) have been introduced for those caught wearing the banned face coverings.
Wearing surgical or FFP2 masks is now mandatory for all Romanian residents older than five at both indoor and outdoor public spaces.
The CNSU also said that bars and restaurants could operate at 50% or 30% capacity depending on the infection rate in their area, but may only admit guests with COVID-19 passes. The same rules apply to sporting venues, gyms and cinemas.
Romania had been registering less than 1,000 new coronavirus cases in mid-December, but over the past week infections jumped to around 6,000 per day. The spike was partly blamed on the holiday season, which saw many Romanians, who work in the West, returning home.
The country is “already in the fifth wave of the pandemic,” Health Minister Alexandru Rafila said on Friday.
Romania has already seen 300 cases of the super-mutant Omicron variant, with Rafila saying that “for the time being, there is a sporadic transmission.”
However, according to the minister, it is “very possible that in the coming days, the coming weeks, we will witness a community transmission supported by this new strain.”
Romania is currently the EU’s second-lowest-vaccinated member state, with just 40% of its population of 19.5 million having received both shots of the jab.
Since the start of the pandemic, the country has recorded more than 1.8 million COVID-19 infections with some 60,000 fatalities.