Romanian President Klaus Iohannis has called a meeting of government officials on October 20 to "establish clear, restrictive measures" to reduce the spread of COVID-19 infections after the country hit daily records in both coronavirus infections and deaths.
"I decided to convene a meeting tomorrow with all those responsible for establishing clear, restrictive measures…that can reduce the spread of infections," Iohannis said in a press statement on October 19.
He said the "lack of concrete action on the part of the authorities is alarming" and called the situation a "national drama of terrible proportions" as he urged Romanians to get vaccinated, wear a mask, avoid crowds, and practice social distancing.
"Whether we are talking about the green certificate or other measures to reduce mobility and human interaction, we must not waste any more time…no matter how unpopular it may seem," he said, referring to the so-called green pass that some countries have implemented as proof of inoculation for entry into restaurants, gyms, and other indoor places.
He avoided identifying those responsible for the failure of the vaccination program in Romania but said it has moved too slowly and preparations were poor.
Romania on October 19 confirmed a record high of 18,863 new COVID-19 infections and 574 deaths in one day. It was the first time the country of 19 million surpassed 500 deaths in a single day.
The number of newly infected "is not a simple number," he said. "There are 18,863 hearts of Romanians who today beat with the fear of the unknown. Each of them with families and loved ones who may have contracted the disease."
The number of deaths represents 574 hearts of Romanians that stopped beating because they lost the fight with this deadly virus, he told a news conference.
"People who, just a few weeks ago, enjoyed life, dreamed and made plans for the future, now leave behind the tears and despair of those who mourn their death," he said.
He also noted the more than 1,800 coronavirus patients in intensive care, adding that the lives of millions of Romanians have changed, often irreversibly, due to the pandemic.
Iohannis called for increases in vaccinations, saying it is the only thing that has worked in all countries where the pandemic has slowed, and he gave assurances that the vaccines available are safe and effective.
Romania has the second-lowest vaccination rate in the European Union behind Bulgaria. Just 34 percent of adults are fully inoculated, compared to the bloc average of 74 percent.
In response to the disaster, the World Health Organization (WHO) will send a senior expert to Romania to help strengthen the country's pandemic response and will facilitate the distribution of 34,000 rapid COVID-19 diagnostic tests and 200 oxygen concentrators to treat virus patients.
"An urgent priority is to boost vaccination among vulnerable groups, reduce the risk of hospitalization and death, and relieve pressure on the health system," Heather Papowitz, a WHO expert, said in a statement.