The number of daily new coronavirus infections in Romania has risen eightfold over the past month to record highs. The country has the second-lowest vaccination rate in the European Union and one of its highest mortality rates.
On Monday, Romania had only three intensive care beds available, and was struggling to add more. The pandemic has killed 37,677 people in the country so far.
Television footage showed patients with oxygen tanks on benches and in beds crowded on hallways at hospitals in the capital Bucharest.
“We do not see a stabilisation or a fall in the number of cases and … we are forced to issue a 30-day order,” Arafat told reporters late on Monday.
“Emergency units at hospitals have created spaces where COVID-19 patients can be cared for. As soon as an intensive care spot is freed up, they are transferred, but more are coming in their stead.”
Emergencies, pregnant women and chronic patients on treatment were exempt from the suspension, he said.
Romania will also ask other EU countries for medication it has in low supplies and was considering asking for oxygen tanks, Arafat said.
Romania has vaccinated only a little over a third of its adult population amid distrust in state institutions and misinformation campaigns. About 40% of medical and teaching staff were not vaccinated.
“Intensive care units are hell,” Dorel Sandesc, vice president of the Romanian ICU association, told local television station Digi 24. “And it is only the beginning, the situation is at its most critical in this pandemic.”
“We are like an overflowing Noah’s Ark to which so many people are desperately clinging.” (Editing by Alison Williams)