Timisoara, the fourth-biggest city in Romania, and several neighbouring communes entered lockdown for 14 days as of March 8 due to a surge in the number of new COVID-19 cases.
Timisoara is the first first-tier Romanian city to take such a decision in 2021, but the number of infections is rising elsewhere in the country as well.
In Timis county, the infection rate for COVID-19 is 5.48 cases per thousand inhabitants (counted over the past 24 hours), while in Timisoara it was 7.49 cases per thousand inhabitants as of March 6 when the decision was taken.
Hundreds of city residents gathered in front of the city hall to protest against the decision. At the same time, supermarkets in the city were overcrowded with people doing last-minute shopping.
Locals will be able to leave their homes only for well-grounded reasons and only based on a statement. Stores will close before 20:00, and the number of customers admitted inside simultaneously must not exceed 30% of the usual capacity. All schools will close, and students will take online classes.
In separate news, the infection rate in the capital city Bucharest and three other counties (Ilfov, Cluj and Brasov) exceeded three people per thousand residents, putting them in the red zone. This means the local authorities will restrict certain economic and social activities.
Cluj-Napoca and Brasov were among the worst hit cities under the previous waves of infection.
Bucharest's Committee for Emergency Situations has decided to close indoor restaurants, cinemas, theatres, gambling venues, cafes and clubs starting March 8.
Kindergarten and primary school pupils, as well as students in final years preparing for the national examinations, will be allowed to go to school in person, while the rest will stay home and study online.
The head of the Department for Emergency Situations, Raed Arafat, said that the country faces the risk of a faster COVID-19 spread due to the new strain that is becoming predominant everywhere.
The national average rate of infections "is around three per thousand, 2.90 - three per thousand," he said.
All localities in the country are being monitored, and where local or regional quarantine measures are required, they will be taken. Otherwise, we could reach more drastic measures at the national level, according to Arafat, who assures that a new countrywide lockdown is not "on the table" at the moment.
"If the growth continues ... where local and zonal measures are needed, they will be taken. If we do not take them, we will end up taking more drastic national measures, and we are trying to avoid this. At this moment, we are not discussing a total lockdown. We try our best not to get there," Arafat said.