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COVID-19: Montenegrin Detained Over Patient Data Release; Thousands Of Romanians Leave For Jobs In Germany

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An elderly man wearing a respirator rides a bicycle past garbage bags to the grocery store during a lockdown, in Ramenskoye, outside Moscow, on April 9.

The global death toll from the coronavirus is more than 89,000 with more than 1.5 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 COVID-19 developments in RFE/RL's broadcast regions.

Montenegro

Authorities in Montenegro have detained a medical staffer accused of publishing a list of the names of people infected with the novel coronavirus.

Prosecutors said on April 8 the man had been ordered detained for up to 72 hours pending further investigation into the case.

The suspect, identified only by the initials M.R., is a staffer of the IT department at the Health Center in the Montenegrin capital, Podgorica.

He was detained late on April 7 for the alleged unauthorized collection and usage of personal information.

He is accused of sharing data on COVID-19 patients with other people who are not authorized to handle the information.

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A list of at least 60 names of people infected with the virus, along with their socal ID numbers and birth year, has been distributed on social networks since April 3.

The government ordered an investigation, saying that publishing the names of infected patients "violates basic human rights."

Civil society organizations and opposition parties have also condemned the publication of the list.

There have been 248 confirmed coronavirus cases in the Adriatic country of some 630,000 people so far, two of whom have died.

Romania

Romania confirmed another 441 cases of COVID-19 on April 9 to reach 5,202, with 26 more fatalities bringing the toll to 246, the country's coronavirus task force said on April 7, amid renewed calls for a sustained increase in the number of tests.

The first coronavirus case was confirmed in Romania on February 26 and the first death on March 22.

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

Despite strict lockdown measures and hefty fines, on April 9, some 2,000 people gathered at the airport in Cluj, a city in northwestern Romania, huddling for hours in the airport parking lot while waiting to board chartered flights to Germany where they would work as seasonal farmhands.

Romania is allowing seasonal workers to leave the country, despite the crisis, and the German government reached an agreement last week to take in 80,000 foreign seasonal workers under strict conditions, with arrivals spread equally over this month and the next one.

The workers who arrived in Germany all underwent medical checks on arrival before going into effective isolation while working on farms.

However, in Romania, Prime Minister Ludovic Orban ordered the removal of the Cluj airport management for failing to ensure social-distancing measures were respected while the workers waited to board the planes.

In the northeastern city of Suceava, the epicenter of the outbreak in Romania, anti-corruption prosecutors on April 9 opened investigations into reports that morgue personnel at the local hospital had demanded bribes for their "extra efforts" from families of deceased patients.

The hospital in Suceava has been put under military command since last week.

Russia

A curfew for children and the elderly has been introduced in Russia's Bashkortostan region to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The head of Bashkortostan, Rady Khabirov, said on April 9 that the curfew for citizens 65 years of age and older started at 6 p.m. local time and runs until 10 a.m. For children, the curfew is from 6 p.m. to 1 p.m., he added.

Khabirov also confirmed reports saying that the largest hospital in Bashkortostan's capital, Ufa, had seen a rise of cases attributed to "pneumonia" in the past two weeks.

Rimma Kamalova of Ufa's Kuvatov Republican Clinical Hospital's rheumatology department told RFE/RL on April 8 that the flow of patients with pneumonia symptoms was "simply enormous."

Khabirov said that some 500 people had been tested for coronavirus, though there were no official results yet.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, sources at the hospital in Ufa told RFE/RL that more that 60 tests came back as positive for the coronavirus on April 8.

Also on April 9, authorities in Bashkortostan introduced a system requiring individuals to obtain electronic permission to use personal cars for trips during the lockdown.

Permission to use a car for one trip up to 90 minutes long per day can be obtained through registration at a government website.

Hungary

Hungary has extended a nationwide lockdown indefinitely to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on April 9.

Hungary has officially recorded 980 confirmed cases and 66 deaths in the pandemic, although the government has acknowledged the number of actual cases is probably much higher.

Nationwide restrictions on movement allowing only travel to work, trips to stores and pharmacies for necessities, or exercise outings were to expire on April 11.

"We are extending the duration of movement restrictions. We are extending them indefinitely," said Orban in a video posted on his Facebook page.

"We will reconsider the restrictions on a weekly basis," he added.

Orban asked citizens to respect restrictions over the coming Easter holiday by avoiding groups and observing social-distancing guidelines in public spaces.

Orban also granted city mayors the power to make "more severe decisions regarding their respective communities."

Last week, Hungary's parliament endorsed a bill giving populist right-winger Orban sweeping new powers he insists are necessary to fight the pandemic but which critics at home and abroad say are simply a power grab.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Balkan and Tatar-Bashkir services, AFP, digi24.ro, g4.ro, Reuters, and hotnews.ro
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