Romania, one of the poorest countries in the European Union, is experiencing a spike in COVID-related deaths as a “catastrophic” fourth wave has taken hold.
It also has one of Europe’s weakest vaccination campaigns against the virus.
At several hospitals in Bucharest and the northeastern city of Iasi, queues of ambulances have been waiting outside hospitals for beds to become available, according to media reports and posts on social networks.
Often ICU beds only become free because their previous occupants have died.
Figures released on Friday showed the highest death toll of the pandemic reported in one day, with 385 people succumbing to the virus.
“If the current flow continues, in one or two days, the health system will collapse because we already don’t have enough place to accommodate the sick,” said Catalin Apostolescu, director of Matei Bals hospital in Bucharest, which is at “110 percent” occupancy.
For the first time since the start of the pandemic, Romania is considering transferring 200 to 300 patients outside the country for treatment amid what senior officials describe as a health “catastrophe”.
The pandemic has exacerbated woes facing the country’s underfunded and understaffed healthcare system. Last week, a hospital fire killed seven patients, the third such incident in Romania in less than a year.
The country’s sluggish vaccination campaign has seen about a third of the eligible population fully immunised.
Lucia Draghici, a patient at Matei Bals in her 50s left struggling to breathe by the virus, admits she is still “very scared” of getting the vaccine despite the effect the illness has had on her.
Georgica Vieru, a 53-year-old Orthodox priest, says he was “one of those who believed that the vaccine wasn’t good”.
After 29 days in hospital recovering from the virus, he has had time to think again.
“After everything I’ve been through, I know I was wrong,” he said.