COVID-19 Deaths Hit New Daily Record As Romania Battles 'Catastrophic' Surge.

Romanian health authorities have reported 385 COVID-19 fatalities, a new record since the start of the pandemic, prompting doctors to urge a new lockdown.

Out of the total number of fatalities, 357 were registered over the past 24 hours while the rest were previous COVID-19 deaths that had not been reported before.

The number of new coronavirus infections in Romania -- with the second-lowest vaccination rate in the European Union -- rose by 13,854 in the past 24 hours.

Romania, one of the poorest countries in the EU, is suffering from a spike in deaths as a fourth wave described as "catastrophic" by President Klaus Iohannis takes hold.

The record -- 15,037 infections -- had been registered on October 5. A total of 1,332,221 cases have been registered in Romania since the start of the pandemic.

Lines of ambulances have been waiting outside several hospitals in Bucharest and the northeastern city of Iasi for beds to become available, television footage showed. Doctors at the infectious-diseases hospital in Iasi on October 8 urged the authorities to impose an immediate lockdown to curb the infections.

Just one intensive-care bed was available on October 8 in the country of 19 million.

"I fear we are already in the Italy scenario," said Valeriu Gheorghita, the head of the national vaccination campaign, referring to the overwhelming of the health-care system in northern Italy during the first wave of the pandemic in March 2020.

For the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, Romania is considering transferring some 200-300 patients outside the country for treatment.

Neighboring Hungary has offered to help with sick patients, while the Netherlands and Poland have offered oxygen supplies within the framework of an EU-wide mutual support mechanism.

Anti-vaccine sentiment is widespread in the country, especially in rural areas, fueled both by conspiracy theories on social media and a lack of trust in the authorities.

Missteps by the center-right government have added to the difficulties.

At the start of the vacation season in summer, the authorities allowed Romanians to mingle without masks and gave over-optimistic public messages, including a statement by Prime Minister Florin Citu in June, who said Romania had defeated the pandemic, although only 25 percent of the population was vaccinated at the time.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Romanian Service, Digi24.ro, and AFP

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