While still a couple of weeks away from the projected peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Romanian authorities have decided that the Holy Week is a proper time to ease the restrictions imposed on free movement.
People will still be confined in their home (except for going to work, buying essentials etc), but they get a permission to go to church to take the blessed bread known as ”paste” on Friday and Saturday before the orthodox Easter.
The Internal Affairs Ministry and the Romanian Orthodox Church also made an agreement that police forces alongside volunteers will distribute the Holy Light during the Easter night, as people are prohibited to attend church services. People will wait for the mixed teams in front of their homes, and people living in blocks of flats are expected to designate one or two carriers to then spread the Light to all dwellers in the building.
The announcement came on the same day that President Klaus Iohannis announced the extension by a month of the state of emergency, first declared on 16 March.
All public events, including church services, are banned in Romania as a measure to contain the epidemic, which provoked the death of more than 350 people in Romania by Tuesday.
While the Orthodox Church initially protested at the restrictions, it has since taken the official stance of recommending worshippers stay at home and follow the church channels that broadcast services. However, many public figures deplored the ban and told their social media followers to go to churches for the Easter service, which usually draws huge crowds in parishes across Romania.
While Romania is one of the first countries in Europe to close schools and adopt various social distancing measures, the restrictions imposed here are less draconian than in other parts of Europe, as, for example, most companies are still allowed to continue operations.
On the hand, no plans of lifting those restrictions has been announced so far, unlike the announcements in other CEE countries such as Austria, the Czech Republic or Poland, and despite the heavy toll on the Romanian economy.