Sat, 06 Jun 2020

The global death toll is more than 76,000 with over 1.3 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.

Here's a roundup of developments in RFE/RL's broadcast countries.

Romania

Romania's confirmed cases of COVID-19 have increased by more than 10 percent over the past 24 hours to reach 4,417, with 35 more fatalities, bring the overall death toll to 197, the country's coronavirus task force said on April 7.

The first coronavirus death was registered in Romania on March 22.

The country has been under a state of emergency since March 16, and President Klaus Iohannis announced his intention on April 6 to extend it by one month, while the government decided to postpone local elections that should have been held in early summer.

Government spokesman Ionel Danca said late on April 6 that the local officials' current mandates have been extended until December 31 at the latest.

In the western city of Timisoara, 10 newborns tested positive for the coronavirus on April 7, with Health Minister Nelu Tataru telling the media that there were suspicions the babies had contracted the virus from health-care staff.

'The mothers tested negative, but the babies tested positive so we have to consider their contacts with medical staff,' Tataru told the media.

The babies have no symptoms and all but one of them, together with their mothers, have gone into self-isolation at home.

Tataru pointed to the 'failures in the activities of both maternity officials and the local public health directorate' and warned severe measures will be taken if necessary.

The local public authority chief has already been dismissed.

'The staff were not wearing masks,' one mother told Romanian media.

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The latest case adds to worries about how Romania's system is coping with the epidemic. Doctors and nurses have spoken out in recent weeks about insufficient equipment for those treating COVID-19 cases, and many medical staff have resigned over the shortages as well as mismanagement and fatigue.

Some 700 of those infected are health-care workers.

Despite the mounting problems and lack of qualified staff, Romania sent a medical team on April 7 to fellow EU member Italy, the world's worst-affected country, to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The 10 doctors and five nurses arrived in Milan, where Romania's Ambassador to Italy, George Bologan, welcomed them, saying, 'a friend in need is a friend indeed.'

An estimated 1.5 million Romanians live in Italy.

Bulgaria

Bulgarian lawmakers have voted to donate their salaries, as well as the wages of government members, to the budget of the Health Ministry for the duration of the state of emergency declared to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

The measure, put forward by Krasimir Tsipov of the parliamentary group of the ruling center-right GERB party, was adopted by Bulgaria's 240-member National Assembly with 140 votes in favor late on April 6.

Bulgaria has been in a state of emergency since March 13. Schools and most shops are closed and there are restrictions on intercity travel and access to parks. All domestic and foreign vacation trips have been banned.

'During the state of emergency, we -- along with cabinet members and their political teams, as well as the heads of national executive agencies -- will not be receiving salaries,' Tsipov told fellow lawmakers.

The measure, which will also affect selected senior officials, was supported by the Volya populist party.

'You are making me proud to be part of this National Assembly,' said Volya member Veselin Mareshki ahead of the vote.

RFE/RL's Coronavirus Crisis Archive

Features and analysis, videos, and infographics explore how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the countries in our broadcast area.

Bulgaria has so far reported 565 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 22 fatalities.

Meanwhile, a senior official at the Bulgarian Embassy in The Hague has been recalled after it was revealed the person was illegally charging visitors seeking assistance from the consulate, calling it a coronavirus tax.

The Foreign Ministry said on April 7 that the official was taking 5 euros from Bulgarians who visited the embassy, and 10 euros from nationals from other countries under the guise of the virus.

'Such behavior is completely incompatible with the Bulgarian diplomatic service and cannot be tolerated in any way,' Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva said in a statement.

Russia

The Russian Railways company has suspended dozens of long-distance routes in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The company said it had suspended 53 routes for an indefinite period and reduced the frequency of 37 others operating across the country as of April 7.

The change included a 50 percent cut in the frequency of the popular Sapsan high-speed trains connecting Moscow with the country's second-largest city, St. Petersburg.

According to the company, the move was made due to a sharp decrease in the number of passengers using railways across the country amid restrictions on the movement of people by officials looking to slow the outbreak.

The company said that the number of refunds for tickets in April has been five times higher than the corresponding figure in April 2019, while there have been three times as many refunds for trips scheduled for May than in the same month last year.

n general, the number of tickets sold for trips in April is 40 percent lower and for trips in May it is 60 percent lower than in the same months in 2019, it added.

Russian Railways said that it would restore regular train schedules as soon as the situation allows.

Russia's coronavirus task force said on April 7 that 7,497 coronavirus cases had been registered in the country, including 58 deaths.

Government critics have warned the low numbers compared with other European nations could be a sign officials are purposely underreporting the outbreak, or that testing has been ineffective.

Some 494 persons who tested positive for COVID-19 have recovered, according to officials.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Romanian and Bulgarian Service, Reuters, Interfax, NTV, TASS, digi24.ro, g4.ro, Reuters, and hotnews.ro

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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