A Slice of Covid-Era Life in Romania – Ioana Hoisescu’s Story

Our series is based on the wisdom each woman can bring or a snippet of their life they want to share with us. Each of the women contributing to the series proudly wears one of our scarfs.

After Ioana’s scarf was lost in the mail to her in Romania, she revealed that almost anything of value goes missing from the post office, so no one trusts the mail system.  My only hope is that our scarf made it to another woman who needed it more.

Vulnerability: Life during Covid in Romania and the war in Ukraine

Romania’s biggest challenge is not Covid or even the war in Ukraine. Its biggest enemy is the triple threat of poverty, corruption, and theft. This is the cancer that is killing this country, slowly but surely! Here, the shit hits the fan every single day.

Romania under Covid

Romania officially declared the Covid pandemic at the beginning of March 2020, and the Romanian government imposed a “state of emergency” for two months. People were confused and struggled to comply with the new rules. Here, like everywhere else, the illness rapidly made a lot of people sick and caused a lot of death. The already vulnerable health system’s shortcomings were exacerbated and led to great suffering and great loss across the nation. There were those who didn’t believe in the existence of Covid, promoted conspiracy theories, and balked at the rules.

While walking in Bucharest, I saw a different and deserted city. I thought this must have been what it was like during the First World War and the German occupation from 1917-1918. (Then, most of the population, including the royal family and the government, left the city and became refugees in Iasi, Moldova region.) As I walked, I saw houses with their doors and windows firmly shut. There was no one in the street. Almost all the shops were shut, except for grocers, pharmacies, and some banks. There were police officers everywhere, and even military guards with guns in military vehicles were patrolling the main boulevards. It looked as if we were at war. But with whom? Who did they want to shoot? Our enemy was invisible. That thought was scary!

Before long, the “state of emergency” was replaced indefinitely by the “state of alert”. Nevertheless, things have only gotten worse.

The new situation didn’t disturb my life greatly. Apart from wearing a mask, avoiding using public transport, or visiting crowded areas, not much changed for me. I was careful not to travel anywhere, not even for a day. Almost three years have passed since I last traveled.

Soon I started losing friends, or just people I knew, to Covid. The first was my 98-year-old friend, Iancu Tzukerman, one of the last Holocaust survivors. A few more followed shortly after him, including some of my friends abroad. Each death was such a shock!

A very good friend of mine, who lives in Ploiești, lost both her parents within 24 hours. Her father died on a Monday, and her mother on the Tuesday. This, to me, was the kind of occurrence that is beyond belief. My friend had to cope with unbelievable grief as she buried both her parents on the same day.

Unexpected deaths were occurring everywhere, so it was a huge relief to finally learn that people were actually surviving this devastating virus after fighting it for several weeks in hospital. My cousin-in-law was one of them, and I know it was extremely hard for him. I am very happy he is still around.

At the time of writing this, the pandemic has killed over 66,000 people in Romania, the population of an average-sized city. This virus doesn’t pick sides. It affects both rich and poor, white or black, old or young. Statistically, the death rate was higher for older people suffering from other illnesses. Treatment options were limited, and despite the doctors’ best efforts, most of the patients in their care were dying.

When the free and voluntary Covid vaccine became available at the end of 2020, the government/Ministry of Health struggled to organize vaccination centers and did a lousy job of highlighting its benefits and promoting it as a necessity. As a European Union country, Romania got plenty of vaccine supplies. In the beginning, we had all the vaccines: Pfizer BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. However, many people refused to be vaccinated.

I think it was a big mistake to mix political interests with national health interests. Romanian politicians have been doing a crappy job for this country for many decades, and the political class has discredited itself to the point where people have completely lost their trust and hope. Politicizing the vaccination campaign for votes was not wise, and in the end, there was no winner.

Political scandal and instability continue to drive the people into poverty. More and more young people are fleeing Romania to seek better opportunities and better lives. The population is dropping significantly, and life is getting harder and harder. The government, which changes almost every 3 months (an indicator of how unstable Romania is), has arranged huge loans with different international institutions only to pay state wages and pensions. They have ignored the private sector, which, after closing businesses and making jobs redundant, has sustained unprecedented losses. This country will be in unimaginable debt for generations to come.

The economic, social, and financial consequences of the pandemic started to show off within weeks. There is seemingly no way to stop the decline in living standards, and people have come to just accept the situation. They are so tired of this pandemic that they just don’t care anymore.

Back in April, the president of the country announced that the pandemic was over with all the preventative measures withdrawn. At the time, it was announced that there were around 300 cases each week. Well… that soon changed! Within days, our weekly rate had increased from 300 to 8,000 cases, and it continues to grow each day, with our weekly rate recently reaching 25,000. Politics means no measures have been reinstated.

The war in Ukraine has resulted in huge inflation (15%), and the increase in prices for gas and everything else is in addition to the disaster caused by 2 years of Covid. It looks like there is no hope and no future for us. These challenges are too big for our politicians, they are completely unable to handle this challenge.

I have been vaccinated 3 times, the last time in February. However, not long ago, I got infected, just when everybody thought the pandemic was over and nobody was talking about it anymore. When I tested positive at the hospital, they prescribed some medication and sent me home. The anti-viral medicine was free and very effective, but I had to buy everything else myself. I had a very high fever and was coughing badly. For several days, I could hardly get out of bed, didn’t eat anything, and was constantly sleeping. I was told to self-isolate for 5 days, but I didn’t have the energy to leave the house even if I wanted to. I live alone, there is nobody to take care of me. Little by little, my temperature dropped, and I started feeling better. However, weeks later, I still feel weak, I cannot concentrate well, I have no appetite, and move with difficulty. I have no idea how I got infected. Maybe on the bus.

Here, there is seemingly no escape from Covid! It continues to infect thousands of people each day. People continue to die, but not as many as before. Also, improved treatment is available with anti-viral, and the doctors are more experienced in handling the condition. Meanwhile, our politicians are calling our current situation the 6th wave. This makes me laugh! Who do they think they are kidding? Obviously, this is an illness we need to learn to live with.

Who knows what’s coming around the corner?!

I crammed my emotions into a place that allowed me to soldier on ~ Ioana Hoisescu

About Me:  Ioana was born in Romania and continues to live there. She has traveled to many countries and has lived and worked in Prague and London. She is a lifelong lover of learning and lives a life of curiosity.

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