Romania to send medics to Italy to combat coronavirus

AFP New Delhi, Delhi, India Apr 06, 2020, 11.16 PM(IST)

Coronavirus in USA Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

"We talked about how Romania is showing its solidarity and we decided to send a team of doctors and nurses to Italy", Iohannis announced after a meeting with several cabinet ministers.

Romania is sending a team of medics to Italy to help fight the coronavirus pandemic, President  Klaus Iohannis said Monday, despite concerns in his own country over its embattled health system.

Also read: WHO slams 'racist' calls for Africa to be vaccine testing ground

"We talked about how Romania is showing its solidarity and we decided to send a team of doctors and nurses to Italy", Iohannis announced after a meeting with several cabinet ministers.

Also read: Coronavirus: Mosque converted into mask factory in virus-hit Iran

Raed Arafat, head of the country's emergency department, said the team is made up of 11 doctors and six nurses from across the country.

Also read: Coronavirus: Jordan becomes latest Mideast country to deploy drones in virus response

"They are health workers from intensive care and emergency units who will fly to Milan on a defence ministry plane," Arafat told AFP, adding that they would be sent under the EU's Civil Protection Mechanism for mutual aid in disaster responses.

Since joining the European Union in 2007, Romania has lost thousands of hospital and healthcare workers through emigration, leaving the country's embattled healthcare system even more vulnerable to shortages.

The government has come in for criticism for its reaction to the crisis for being underprepared and not getting sufficient equipment to frontline healthcare staff. 

Nonetheless Arafat insisted that the mission to Italy "won't have an impact" on Romania's healthcare system, adding that the team were volunteers.

"The most important thing right now is solidarity. The situation in Italy is more serious now and tomorrow we might be the ones in need of help," Arafat said, adding: "It's only normal we act this way."

Italy's Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio took to Twitter to thank the Romanian government for "accepting our request for help".

Di Maio said the action was an act of "solidarity that fills us with pride".

There are more than 4,000 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in Romania so far and 168 people have died.

Iohannis said the state of emergency declared on 16 March to fight COVID-19 will be extended for one more month, starting next week.

"We haven't yet reached the peak of the epidemic. We can't relax now", Iohannis said.