Thursday, May 25, 2006

When in Romania

A couple of days ago we reported on mass quarantines of an urban area in Romania's capital of Bucharest. The measure, affecting some 60,000 people all-told in the city and another town in central Romania, was so severe we asked if something extraordinary was occurring there. It turns out there was.

Extraordinary stupidity.
Officials from the World Health Organization said they believed it to be the first time that the movements of so many people were restricted because of bird flu. The Romanian authorities said the tough measures were necessary when the virus threatened an urban area, an assertion WHO disputes.


A town in central Romania, Codlea, and its 23,000 residents, were also put under quarantine. All this happened after a dead chicken was discovered to have been infected with the H5N1 virus that health officials fear might mutate into a human epidemic.


But by Tuesday afternoon, the authorities said the danger of contamination had been reduced.

The government relaxed measures in the capital and in Codlea.

International health experts questioned the necessity of placing humans under quarantine, and critics suggested the heavy-handed response was a way of covering up the government's inability to stop the virus in the first place.

"Generally we do not recommend that the movement of people is restricted to contain an animal outbreak," said Maria Cheng, spokeswoman for the World Health Organization in Geneva. (International Herald Tribune)
Not surprisingly people in the affected areas are pissed.
On Monday, Romanian television broadcast scenes of angry residents demanding that they be allowed to go to work. Several said they had to pay for food the government provided.
A combination of authoritarianism and incompetence that is the stuff of nightmares.

Heck of a job.