The lockdown in Romania over the COVID-19 aka coronavirus began on March 15, 2020 when the Romanian president declared the State of Emergency for 30 days. The measure has since been extended to May 15th – and this is the date when most people, including officials, believe – or hope – that the strict lockdown will end.
But will the coronavirus-related lockdown and state of emergency really end on May 15? That’s really difficult to say today, even though we’re very close to this date.
Even the officials – which started to talk about relaxed measures and the end of the state of emergency a week ago – are saying that the end of the lockdown in Romania still depends on the evolution of the number of confirmed cases and deaths related to the new virus.
(Note: I keep an up to date Romania coronavirus tracker here – make sure to check it out for the latest number and a better overview of the virus’ situation in the country).
But, judging from the statements made by the Romanian officials – from Romania’s President to various ministers, everybody believes that the state of emergency in Romania will end on May 15th and we won’t have another month of a very strict lockdown.
Will life in Romania get back to normal after May 15?
Unfortunately, even if the state of emergency will not be prolonged, life will not get back to normal in the country and there will still be a lot of restrictions in place, as well as measures intended to keep the numbers of newly infected people as low as possible.
However, based on official statements made on TV and other official sources, starting May 15th (if the State of Emergency indeed ends – there’s still a small chance it won’t), most of the more restrictive measures will be lifted, including:
- the need to have a signed statement when leaving home, declaring where you are going (currently, you are only allowed to leave your home for very few solid reasons, like grocery shopping, emergencies, exercising but only in the proximity of your home and so on)
- there will no longer be fines for not having a statement
- Military Ordinances will no longer be possible
All in all, less strict measures are expected starting May 15th, with new even less strict ones expected every two weeks if the situation in the country won’t get worse.
There will still be some strict rules in place: Romanians will be obliged to wear a mask when entering stores or public transportation vehicles. Larger groups will still not be allowed, restaurants and cafes will not reopen yet, nor any gatherings with larger amounts of people will be permitted.
Also, the head of the Emergency Situations Department, Raed Arafat, warned people that this will be an atypical year. According to Romanian news agency Mediafax, he also said that weddings (or at least large wedding parties) might not be allowed this year – but if the situation improves, things can change.
But at least people will be allowed to go outside more often and take advantage of the nice weather that we’re having. What exactly this means and how will it affect the spread of the virus… only time will tell.
Should Romania end its lockdown on May 15?
I have to say that this is definitely my personal opinion and I am not an expert in the health sector, nor a political genius. I am just a regular guy, suffering like everybody else, trying to adapt and overcome. And I might not be correct with my opinion below, but here it is anyway.
I will start with the most important piece of information in this equation: the daily situation of confirmed cases in the country. And even though I share the numbers, the graph below (via Wikipedia) paints a better picture:
At the moment of writing this article, we already have the data for May 2, which is 165 new cases.
Looking at the numbers, there is not a clear and obvious proof that the numbers of newly infected are steadily going down. Sure, we have the first 2 days of May with record low numbers, but we shouldn’t be too optimistic about these yet: May 1st was a holiday, May 2nd and 3rd are weekend days.
This means that fewer tests were made or that the reports are less up to date simply because many people didn’t work. This is how things generally were since the virus started spreading in Romania: over the weekend, numbers were lower. So if the reality is a bit different, we’re probably going to see a new spike in the number of newly confirmed cases (hopefully not that big) on Monday / Tuesday.
But even if we won’t see that, the numbers have to go down a lot in order to consider lifting the lockdown and relaxing the measures on May 15th.
UPDATE: I am not happy about this, but it appears that I was right. May 3rd came with a whooping 431 new cases as reported by the officials. There is always a bit of a delay on how the data is collected (so it might’ve been higher numbers in the previous two days), but the total is the same and a proof that numbers are not going down dramatically.
Right now, even with 165 new cases per day – even though the numbers are much better than the average of the previous month, they are still much higher than the number of newly confirmed cases when the State of Emergency was declared (around 40 per day).
You can’t logically say that you’re declaring a State of Emergency when there are 40 new cases each day, but things are better and you can relax when you have 165. These numbers are still high and they prove that there is still local transmission, even though everybody is, at least in theory, locked at home.
If life gets back to normal (more or less), with the current numbers, chances are that they will increase again and maybe even get out of control. Japan went through a similar situation, with the Hokkaido region lifting the State of Emergency, only to be forced to re-instate it 26 days later (see the article on BBC).
In Romania, even with the State of Emergency, many people don’t really care about physical distancing or listening to the rules. I live in an apartment and the neighbors upstairs, who are in their mid 20s – constantly have friends over. People gather in the yard behind the building, children play together, neighbors sit next to each other on their benches, sharing beer, juice and snacks. Every day, there are 10-15 people doing this.
My mother lives near a farmer’s market in the city and she says that the situation is as always there: big crowds at all times, people just hanging out and chatting… even some of her neighbors who are all over 65 and are in theory only allowed to exit their homes two hours per day for basic necessities, just go to the market just to check the prices (to see what products are more expensive), then they go to all the nearby stores to do the same.
Every single day these three older ladies meet outside and start their daily rounds, without wearing masks, staying close to tens of other people – most of them without masks too – just to check the prices of the products.
And I am sure that they are not the only ones doing this. Paradoxically, though, they are extremely scared of the virus and plan to retreat to a village to avoid getting it. Yet they don’t realize the risks of their actions. These are the people nowadays.
And this makes me believe that lifting the state of emergency in Romania and allowing people to get back to their old ways is a mistake. Because people are unable to respect the rules and take care of themselves – or care about the others.
My family and I have spent the last 60 days nearly locked in our apartment. I only went out maybe 6 times in total during this time and only for grocery shopping. My wife only went out maybe 3 times, two of which were for 30 minutes to walk outside with our son.
Yes, my 6-year-old son only went out TWICE during the past 60 days, and only for a limited amount of time, with limited options in terms of entertainment.
We’re not enjoying this at all. We do our best to remain active inside our apartment, we spend time on the balcony with the windows open, we had picnics there, we’re exercising and keeping our weight and hopefully our health in check… but it’s still very difficult for us, especially our son, even more so now that the weather is perfect.
And despite all these, despite the fact that I wholeheartedly want this to end, I want to be able to go outside and walk and run and see my son play alone or with other kids, to look at the flowers, to gather bugs, to be a child… I still don’t think it’s the right moment to lift the state of emergency and get back to normal. Because we only risk making things worse.
Why not wait 14 – 30 days longer to kick this out completely instead of relaxing the measures for 14 – 30 days and go back under lockdown again for 60 days more?
I might be exaggerating. The conspiracy theorists might be right. The virus itself might not be too dangerous for my family. For myself. But why risk it? There are very few things in this worth that are worth risking your life over, and the believes of some people – or even my personal doubts – are not on the list.
The data shows that there’s a rate of mortality of around 6% worldwide, based on the confirmed cases. This means that, out of 100 people who get this virus, 6 die. I don’t really like the numbers and I consider the risks way too high and I am sorry to see that many people don’t.
I don’t like this situation and a part of me can’t wait for the lockdown to end. For the state of emergency to end. For us to be able to go out again. But I believe it’s still too soon. But I will do my best – just like I did until now – to keep myself and my family safe. We’ll wear masks, even though some people look at you as if you’re an alien. We’ll keep our distance, we’ll go out when most people are inside and we’ll be as careful as possible. We’ll do our best and I can only hope that more and more people will do the same.
This is the only way to beat the coronavirus in Romania and worldwide – or at least win enough time until medicine or vaccine becomes available. And hopefully more and more people will do this and realize that the risks are too high, even though the numbers worldwide look much better than some of the grimmer estimates showed.
The battle is far from being over and this is just the beginning, in my opinion. And I don’t believe that, under the current circumstances – with new cases still relatively high and especially with so many people not doing anything to protect themselves and the people around – lifting the lockdown in Romania on May 15th might not be the best approach.
But there are still close to two weeks until then… let’s hope that those new case numbers keep going down and as close to 0 as possible.