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Romanian Doctors Issue 'Cry Of Despair' Amid COVID-19 Surge

Patients lie on beds in the emergency room, turned into a COVID-19 unit due the high number of cases, at a hospital in Bucharest on October 12.

Romanian doctors have issued an open letter titled A Cry Of Despair as the country's overwhelmed health-care system copes with a surge of coronavirus infections and deaths.

The College of Physicians of Bucharest, a nongovernmental organization representing doctors in Romania's capital, said in an October 13 letter that the medical system had "reached the limit" and that low vaccination rates revealed a "failure of trust."

"We are desperate because every day we lose hundreds of patients who die in Romanian hospitals," the letter reads. "We are desperate, because, unfortunately, we have heard too many times: I can't breathe.… I'm not vaccinated."

One of the poorest countries in the EU, Romania is suffering from a spike in COVID-19 deaths amid a fourth wave described by officials as "catastrophic."

On October 13, Romania-- the EU member state with the second-lowest vaccination rate -- recorded 442 deaths and nearly 17,000 new confirmed virus cases.

Anti-vaccine sentiment is widespread in the country, especially in rural areas, fueled both by conspiracy theories on social media and a lack of trust in the authorities.

"Every day we witness tragedies: dying patients, suffering families, doctors who have reached the end of their powers," the letter from Bucharest's doctors reads.

The pressure on hospitals prompted Romanian officials last week to suspend nonemergency medical procedures for 30 days and to ask the EU for help.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on October 13 that his country will help Romania treat 50 COVID-19 patients requiring intensive care. Szijjarto said the 50 people would be treated at two Hungarian hospitals and the countries would work out the logistics over the coming days.

Janez Lenarcic, the EU commissioner for crisis management, said last week that the EU would send 250 oxygen generators to Romania.

Based on reporting by RFE/RL's Romanian Service, AP and Reuters