Mortuaries, hospitals grapple with deaths from COVID-19 in Romania | Coronavirus pandemic News – Community News
Covid-19

Mortuaries, hospitals grapple with deaths from COVID-19 in Romania | Coronavirus pandemic News

The morgue at Romania’s main hospital no longer has room for the dead. In a stark illustration of the human cost of the coronavirus wave sweeping the nation, bodies of COVID-19 victims, wrapped in black plastic bags, lie along a corridor of the hospital in the capital Bucharest.

Hundreds of people died every day in Romania for the past two months. The country is one of the hardest hit by the current virus attack that is sweeping through Central and Eastern European countries, where far fewer people have been vaccinated than in Western Europe.

With a population of 19 million, Romania currently has one of the highest death rates in Europe. Last month, the World Health Organization dispatched a team to help with the country’s pandemic response.

Frustrated and overworked, Romanian doctors struggle to cope.

“A village in Romania disappears every day!” gasped Dr Catalin Cirstoiu, the head of Bucharest University Emergency Hospital. “And in a week or a month? A bigger village? Or a city? Where do we stop?”

Experts have attributed the rising deaths to low vaccination rates in Romania, where about 40 percent of the population is fully vaccinated — much lower than the European Union average of 75 percent.

The low rates here and elsewhere in the region are believed to be the result of a general mistrust of authorities and institutions, educational gaps and entrenched anti-vaccination movements, which even involve some top doctors.

“We are financially exhausted… physically and psychologically,” Cirstoiu lamented. “These are all ultimately caused by one thing: the population’s inability to understand that they need to be vaccinated.”

He insisted that “if 70 percent of the population had been vaccinated, we wouldn’t have had a fourth wave.”

A member of the medical staff handles a syringe in the COVID-19 ward of the University Emergency Hospital in Bucharest, Romania [Vadim Ghirda/AP]

In the hospital, even a first aid waiting room has been converted into a COVID-19 room, closed with a plastic film. On the days when admissions are skyrocketing, newly arrived patients are forced to lie on stretchers in the hallways before they can get a bed.

On Monday, hospital staff in protective clothing rushed through a sprawling ward to tend to the patients, many of whom were in their beds with oxygen masks tight on their faces. A woman sitting on her bed put her head, wrapped in a pink traditional scarf, on her hand.

Romania recorded the highest daily death toll from the pandemic on Nov. 2, when 591 COVID-19 deaths were reported — more than 90 percent of them were unvaccinated. Currently 1,870 COVID-19 patients are being treated in intensive care across the country, nearly 51,000 people with coronavirus have died since the outbreak began.

The situation forced authorities two weeks ago to impose stricter restrictions, making vaccination certificates mandatory for various daily activities, such as going to the gym, the cinema or a shopping center. Authorities have also imposed a nationwide curfew at 10 p.m.

When the restrictions took effect, Romania’s failed vaccination campaign was visible as schools resumed Monday after a long autumn break, with more than 30 percent of classes having to be taken online due to low vaccination coverage in some schools.

Cirstoiu blames the low level of vaccination on general mistrust among the public and a lack of meaningful education and clear campaigns explaining the benefits. Cristoiu described the current virus wave as “the wave of unvaccinated”.

Seen through a plastic sheet, a member of the medical staff checks COVID-19-positive patients in the waiting area of ​​the University Emergency Hospital, converted into a COVID-19 ward, in Bucharest, Romania [Vadim Ghirda/AP]

While the latest tightening of rules in Romania has led to a slight drop in the daily number of infections and deaths — officials announced on Tuesday that 487 COVID-19 patients died in the past 24 hours — doctors warned they remain overwhelming and likely not. will decrease quickly.

dr. Maria Sajin, the head of the university clinic’s morgue, said that while the hospital would normally have an average of 10 fatalities daily, the death toll on Monday reached 26, of whom 14 were COVID-19 patients. Last week there were 35 deaths in one day, she said.

Mortuary staff, helpless in the face of the rising death toll, were devastated that the victims included people in their 20s or 25s. Shouts from the relatives invited to identify the bodies of their loved ones echoed through the hallways as funeral directors prepared the coffins for burials.

“Their families don’t understand how they got so sick, and the big problem is they don’t understand that they have to vaccinate, that there are no drugs,” Sajin said. “These are very difficult times, no one understands that vaccines save lives.”

Funeral workers haul a coffin on a cart as they arrive at the University Emergency Hospital mortuary to take a COVID-19 victim for burial, in Bucharest [Vadim Ghirda/AP]