How do Romanians see Italians

Romanians in Italy: All roads lead away from Rome

Magdalena Chiriac had just arrived in Rome when Bucharest announced that it would cancel all flight connections between Romania and Italy. The coronavirus epidemic had hit the whole country from the north of the peninsula. The 58-year-old scientist tried for a long time to get in touch with the diplomatic mission of Romania: "It was more of a psychological thing. After several attempts, it finally succeeded, but still nobody helped us. On the contrary: They told us about it," Interview with DW.

There are at least 70 coronavirus infections in Romania, schools have been closed and events with over 100 people are prohibited. On Friday morning it became known that even a member of the Romanian parliament was infected. The Senator went into quarantine on his own initiative, as did the Acting Prime Minister Ludovic Orban and the leading politicians of his liberal PNL party - in the middle of a deep political crisis.

Anyone entering from Corona risk areas such as Italy is obliged to a 14-day quarantine. In the meantime, Romania has also closed several border crossings.

Tens of thousands commute between Romania and Italy every month

The fear of those returning to Italy, who could infect a large number of people in Romania, is particularly great because more than 1.2 million Romanians live on the peninsula. Tens of thousands commute between the two countries at least once a month. No wonder that after the corona shock in the northern Italian regions of Lombardy and Veneto, around 30,000 Romanians returned to their home country from Italy between February 23 and March 10 alone.

When Magdalena Chiriac traveled to Romania via the Bulgarian capital Sofia, she was already on a list of returnees from Italy that was available at Bucharest's Otopeni airport. She would have said where she came from anyway, she assures us. "We waited about four hours at the airport to be picked up for the 14-day quarantine. We were tired, had no more water. Eight of us sat tightly together, without masks or disinfectants. In case I didn't catch anything in Rome , it sure happened here at Otopeni Airport, "says Magdalena Chiriac bitterly. "They took our IDs away and watched us so that we wouldn't run away. As if we were criminals."

Improvised quarantine station without towels and running water

In the meantime, she has arrived at a hotel that has been converted into a quarantine station. Around 1,000 people are accommodated there, including children. Although hygiene is crucial in the fight against Covid-19, nobody was given towels. Even more, the returnee from Italy had to hand over her own towels. Then even the running water in the bathroom failed. "We weren't tested either, nobody came. I understood that there weren't enough tests, nor enough staff to carry them out. Everyone is completely overwhelmed," reports Magdalena Chriac after she finished the first day of the two-week Has survived quarantine.

When the Italian authorities introduced strict quarantine rules, many Romanians abroad also curled up in their homes on the peninsula. Others took the first bus they came across or their own car to flee Italy as quickly as possible - but the Romanian border police stopped them too and placed them under quarantine.

The majority of Romanians who live in Italy for a long time, however, are waiting there in order not to risk infecting their families and friends in their home country with the new virus - especially against the background of the ailing, underfunded Romanian health system, which is also under a dramatic one Lack of staff suffers.

Due to the Corona crisis in Italy, many Romanians have already lost their jobs in the tourism sector. Some were sent home by the hotel owner - but the way there is difficult because there are no more flights and the Ministry of Transport in Bucharest has banned all bus companies from and to Italy. In addition, Hungary and Slovenia have closed the borders to all travelers coming from Italy.

"You can't come from Bologna at all, there are no more flights!"

Marian Popa watched the live broadcast of a press conference in Bucharest with amazement. The Romanian interior minister assures that it is very easy to find out exactly at airports whether a passenger is from Italy or other corona risk areas. The designer knows from his own experience that reality is different. He was in one of the last planes to take off from Italy before Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced that the country would be closing. First he flew from Bologna to Munich, where he had to fill out a questionnaire on landing and his temperature was measured. There was no sign of illness. So nobody was alarmed when they boarded the Lufthansa plane to Bucharest. And at Otopeni Airport, nobody asked him about his health, he reports in an interview with DW.

Out of a sense of responsibility for his fellow citizens, he contacted the authorities on his own initiative and "denounced" himself as returning from Italy. There were a lot of calls, it was passed from one point to another. In the end, an employee of the public health authority in Bucharest said to him: "You can't come from Bologna at all, there are no more flights there from Romania." As a precaution, Marian Popa is now isolating herself for 14 days.