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Romania Detects First Virus Case After Man Has Contact With Italian Visitor

Romanian Interior Minister Ion Marcel Vela called for calm after the first coronavirus case is reported in the country. (file photo)
Romanian Interior Minister Ion Marcel Vela called for calm after the first coronavirus case is reported in the country. (file photo)

BUCHAREST -- Romania's health minister has confirmed the first coronavirus infection in the Southeastern European country.

Health Minister Victor Costache told a news briefing on February 26 that a man from the southwestern county of Gorj has tested positive, adding that his condition at this time was good and that he was not showing symptoms.

Costache said the man, who was not identified, had contact with a 71-year-old Italian from Rimini during a hunting trip in Romania.

"He is in a good condition and will be transferred to a Bucharest infectious hospital," Costache told the news conference.

He told reporters that the "evolution of the virus is unpredictable -- there may be no more cases, one more case, two cases or more."

"But this is not an epidemic. We are talking about a single case. And if we talk about two, three, four cases, it's still not an epidemic," he added.

Raed Arafat, an infectious-disease expert, said the man was living in a residence with at least six other people, all of whom had tested negative for the COVID-19 virus that globally has killed more than 2,700 people and infected some 81,000 others, most of them in China.

Outside of China, the largest outbreak has occurred in South Korea -- with 1,595 cases -- but the largest outbreak in Europe has occurred in Italy, with some 400 infections there and 12 deaths.

Some 1 million Romanians live and work in Italy and many others travel there regularly.

Earlier this week, the Romanian Health Ministry said that all persons returning from northern Italy -- where the outbreak has been the most severe -- would be subject to a 14-day quarantine and that medical staff had been deployed to the border points.

Romanian Interior Minister Ion Marcel Vela said that "we call for calm, responsibility, and involvement in following all our communications and all recommendations made by the Ministry of Health or by [the Emergency Situations Department]."

"We will manage...and we, as a nation, will overcome this challenge because we are strong," Vela said.

"This coronavirus is a test for us, which we will surely go through together," he added.

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    RFE/RL's Romanian Service

    After a decade-long closure, RFE/RL's Romanian Service relaunched in 2019 on digital platforms to help address declining media independence in Romania and the spread of disinformation.