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Far-right protesters in Romania rally against new restrictions amid COVID spike

A woman holds a banner during an anti-government and anti-restrictions protest organized by the far-right Alliance for the Unity of Romanians or AUR, in Bucharest, Romania, on October 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
A woman holds a banner during an anti-government and anti-restrictions protest organized by the far-right Alliance for the Unity of Romanians or AUR, in Bucharest, Romania, on October 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

BUCHAREST, Romania — More than 5,000 far-right protesters march in Romania’s capital of Bucharest to reject upcoming new restrictions that authorities hope will combat an alarming surge of COVID-19 infections.

Daily COVID-19 infections in the European Union nation of 19 million have skyrocketed from around 1,000 daily cases a month ago to 12,590 new cases today. That is Romania’s highest daily number of infections since the pandemic started.

The rise is putting the country’s hospitals under serious pressure as intensive care units reach near-capacity nationally.

Authorities have said that new restrictions will be implemented when an area’s infection rate exceeds 6 per 1,000 residents over a 14-day period. Bucharest’s infection rate today stood above 8 per 1,000 residents.

The mostly mask-less marchers block traffic, honk horns and chant “Freedom!” One placard reads: “Green certificates = dictatorship.” The demonstration was organized by Romania’s far-right AUR party.

The new restrictions — expected to take effect in the next few days — will require people to wear masks in public and make shops close at 10:00 p.m. Restaurants will remain open at half capacity, but only for people with COVID-19 passes.

The protest angers some medical workers.

Beatrice Mahler, hospital manager of Bucharest’s Marius Nasta Institute of Pneumology, says that protesters “believe their right to ‘freedom’ is above our right to health.”

“The situation in hospitals is serious,” she tells The Associated Press. “We have patients hospitalized in beds in the hallway — all with extremely severe forms of COVID-19.”

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