BUCHAREST (Reuters) – Romania reported the year’s highest daily number of coronavirus infections on Wednesday as cases doubled within a week, authorities said, amid relatively low vaccination rates and the reopening of schools after the summer break.
The Black Sea state is trailing in European Union’s vaccination lists amid widespread distrust in state institutions, with nearly 31% of its eligible 12+ population inoculated so far, just ahead of the bloc’s laggard Bulgaria.
The EU’s average vaccination rate reached 70% in September.
“Schools act as an accelerator of intra-community transmission. It’s like going in the first gear in the community, and then shifting instantly to the fifth gear, when they get to school,” said public health expert Razvan Chereches.
Schools were mostly shut for much of last year, with only a two-month reopening in September to October. They reopened on Sept. 13, with 61% of teachers vaccinated so far, according to the education ministry.
Government data showed COVID-19 infections hit the year’s peak for the second day in a row on Wednesday, with 7,045 positive cases out of 54,000 tests over the past day. The peak in 2020 was about 10,300 infections.
Public health officials this month estimated Romania could see 15,000-20,000 daily cases in October.
About 35,800 people have died since the beginning of the outbreak in the country of 20 million, with numbers now around 130 a day, having risen from roughly two people a day in between the third and fourth waves.
Romania has some of the bloc’s least developed healthcare infrastructure.
The head of the national vaccination committee said on Tuesday, the country could start offering a third COVID-19 vaccine dose to medical staff and at-risk people as early as next week given the sharp rise in cases.
(Reporting by Radu Marinas; Editing by Alison Williams)