Well, folks, it’s been a really interesting 24 hours.
First, Montenegro, which had been the only country in Europe without a single confirmed case of the virus, reported that it now had two cases. This after the prime minister said that Montenegro had remained virus-free due to the “cleanliness” of its citizens.
That leaves Pridnestrovie the sole country in Europe without a single confirmed case (even Greenland and the Faroe Islands apparently have it now).
In far more ominous news, Pridnestrovie has now modified its emergency decree to forbid its own citizens from leaving the country.
Certain exemptions do exist, however, including for diplomatic personnel, doctors “on medical business,” anyone transporting cargo (i.e. food and other goods), and people who can somehow demonstrate that they are attending the funeral of a “close” relative.
The 19-day state of emergency went into effect at midnight (plus one minute) on the morning of March 16. Apparently, some 1,200 citizens left PMR on that day, which seriously pissed off President Krasnoselsky.
Note: Most of the most of the citizens who crossed the border returned within 24 hours, but now they’re all subject to a 14-day quarantine and mandatory checks by medical personnel.
Therefore, on March 17 (somewhere, a lonely glass of green beer sits undrunk at a closed-down bar – *sniff*), the president shut the border for all PMR citizens (except for the exemptions listed above).
The border has been closed for a while now to foreigners, and some 400 people were turned away yesterday alone, including citizens of Romania, China, and the United States.
That’s pretty much in line with what all other countries in Europe are doing, but forbidding citizens from leaving was quite a disturbing development.
Since the end of the war in 1992 they have never once prevented people from leaving Pridnestrovie. So that made last night quite chilling indeed.
The Freest Man in Tiraspol
Weirdly, though, I theoretically have permission to both leave and come back, if I wanted to. There is no restriction on non-citizens leaving and foreigners who are registered in the country (i.e. have a residency visa) are allowed back in. And, of course, I am registered.
Of course, without a car (I don’t own one), it’d be next to impossible for me to leave. All the trains and buses which normally shuttle between Tiraspol and Chisinau have all been shut down.
I don’t really have a reason to leave at the moment (in fact, I haven’t been to Chisinau since September), but it does feel strange to know that the entire country has been turned into one big jail of sorts.
Meanwhile, the conspiracies have been going viral (ugh…), some of them ridiculous (the coronavirus causes cancer being one) and some less so.
One that was getting a lot of traction yesterday was that the army was going to use helicopters to spray disinfectant on the city during the middle of the night.
Of course, the fact that the army doesn’t have any helicopters, and there is no way to “disinfect” a city by airborne spraying, didn’t stop the rumor from spreading.
The other big conspiracy is that PMR is covering up the existence of “thousands” of infected people and lying when they say they have zero confirmed cases. President Krasnoselsky seemed particularly angry about this rumor and has denied it several times.
As far as I am aware, PMR only has a limited number of tests anyway, so it seems next to impossible for anyone to know who is actually infected. But in terms of lines or crowds at the hospitals and clinics here in Tiraspol, I haven’t seen them. If these “hordes” of sick people exist, they are well-hidden indeed.
Here in PMR, the main food market is still open, which is both welcome and worrisome. It’s welcome because people (including my wife and I) need our fresh fruits and vegetables, but it does seem to go, somewhat, against the idea of restricting places where large numbers of people gather.
The Sheriff supermarkets, meanwhile, continue to maintain a far stricter policy of forcing people to wait outside at two-meter distances, (supposedly) limiting the total number of shoppers to 40 at a time, and forcing all personnel to wear face masks and gloves.
I should add here that they’ve conveniently put lines on the ground outside as well as in each checkout line so that you know where the two-meter distance is.
I went to Sheriff this morning, and it broke my heart a little to see the poor cashiers forced to wear plastic gloves (which get your hands all sweaty) and masks. That’s clearly got to be uncomfortable. But considering how filthy money is (and, except for the cool plastic coins, most PMR money is of the grimy paper type), wearing gloves probably should’ve been mandatory years ago.
Most disturbing to me, though, was seeing the store managers also wearing masks and gloves. In Sheriff, the managers always wear a suit or formal business clothes, so seeing a man in a suit and a mask was somehow more chilling than seeing a cashier wearing them.
I also noticed that there is a police officer stationed in front of the supermarket, but they don’t really have much to do. I saw a few people bunch up at the door, clearly confused (and a bit angry) about the new rules, but inside, all was fine.
I also swung by the competing Fourchette supermarket to see how it was there. Like Sheriff, the employees are wearing gloves and a mask. And there was also a police officer stationed in front of the store, but there were no temperature checks. And I saw way more than 40 people inside the building.
In terms of other businesses, some are closed, but others are operating on an ad-hoc “social distance” basis. There’s a local chain here that’s a combined coffee shop and tobacconist (called, appropriately, “Sherlock”), and they were open. But they had a sign saying “only one customer at a time can enter.”
I watched President Krasnoselsky’s speech yesterday as well as his parliament speech this morning, and I’m coming around a bit (but only a bit) to his position.
Clearly, limiting contact with the outside world is the best way to keep new cases from developing. And all the social distancing stuff should, theoretically, keep the medical system from being overwhelmed.
But I’d much rather have preferred a medical doctor or someone who isn’t a politician take control of the virus response. Right now, there’s a real lack of information about what, exactly, the virus is or what its potential effects are.
On the other hand, Krasnoselsky has never been one to sit on the sidelines. This morning, he, just like everyone else at the parliament, went through the “face control” (temperature check) that they’ve implemented at the Sheriff supermarkets and other places.
According to Krasnoselsky, PMR has 44 respirators in total. He also said that Ukraine (with a vastly larger population) only has 400. Obviously, we’ll just have to wait and see if those “hordes” of sick people ever manifest themselves.
I do know that much of PMR’s population is elderly, and there was already a large number of cases of the (ordinary) flu reported back in January, so we’re far from being out of the woods just yet.
The Republic of Moldova, in contrast, is in full crazy mode.
Whereas Romania’s state of emergency is set for 30 days and PMR’s for just 19, Moldova decided to go whole hog and implement a 60-day state of emergency.
Furthermore, they’ve put the hammer down on a whole host of things, including closing all markets (bazaars) and just about every kind of non-essential business.
Chisinau, furthermore, is in virtual lockdown, with police stopping pedestrians and asking them why they’re in the streets and where they are going, et cetera.
The Moldovan social media is absolutely rife with conspiracies, including allegations of hospitals being “stuffed full” of unreported cases.
Other conspiracies include things like Prime Minister Kiku or the Socialists or the Democrats (or pick your party/politician) are using the crisis to secretly take control or seize power or do other sinister things.
As a result, the government has been on its back foot, continuously having to dispel rumors and counteract “fake news” of every sort as well as justify why they had to declare a state of emergency in the first place.
Of course, long before this virus existed, the vast majority of Moldovans deeply distrusted the government (for very good reasons). And this, of course, is weakening social solidarity and efforts to implement public health measures.
Officially, a single person in Moldova has died “from” the virus, although just like everywhere else, the dead lady was both elderly and had what doctors call “co-morbidities” or other health problems.
The American ambassador to Moldova, Derek Hogan, as well as the entire embassy staff, along with all Peace Corps staff and volunteers, fled Moldova yesterday on a special charter flight.
Otherwise, the Chisinau airport is entirely closed.
Any American citizens who might need consular help are now officially shit out of luck.
Romania, meanwhile, is its usual discombobulated, utterly incompetent self.
Tons of people are breaking the rules (now “laws” under the martial law currently in effect), including one guy with a confirmed case of the virus who just straight up ran away (🇷🇴) from the hospital in Bucharest where he was interned.
And a TAROM pilot has been confirmed (🇷🇴) to have the virus. Obviously, pilots fly all over the place, and he’s likely infected dozens if not hundreds of other people around the world.
In happier news, the virtually deserted streets of Bucharest have resulted in the city’s pollution levels dropping to a healthy level for the first time in a long, long time.
Previously, they were way above the legal limits, and the mayor of Bucharest (Gabriela Firea) and the PNL environment ministers (both interim and permanent) were clashing over that intensely in January.
Me and Mine
Other, perhaps more chilling developments include the Romanian authorities stopping a cargo flight (🇷🇴) in Cluj that was bound for Italy.
Onboard were 20,000 masks and other types of emergency medical gear desperately needed in Italy. But the new martial law in effect in Romania means that no medical equipment used to combat the virus is allowed to be sold or transported out of the country.
Romania has taken hundreds of millions of dollars from the EU over the past 10 years, but when its fellow EU member Italy needs help (and they definitely DO need help), Romania clearly does not give a shit.
And Victor Ponta, who has emerged from the (metaphorical) dead to once again become the most powerful politician in Romania (I’d love to go into all of his machinations in a separate article, but there’s just no time, unfortunately), is now saying that he will push through legislation to make it also illegal to export food (🇷🇴).
Romanians truly are showing their nastiest side to the world. Even the “softest” racists in the country are talking about how the virus cases in Romania are all “imported” from foreign lands as opposed to, you know, arising from contact with fellow human beings. Viruses obviously don’t give a shit about passports or citizenship papers.
Romania’s rather substantial pharmaceutical industry is also gearing up to produce both tests for the virus as well as start testing potential vaccines. Obviously, should they succeed, absolutely none of it will be exported or shared with other countries.
Meanwhile, Romania’s borders are officially closed to foreigners, but the utterly broke government is more than happy to spend millions of dollars on special flights and convoys to return Romanian citizens home. And since literally every single country in Europe now has active virus cases, this is sure to result in plenty of new infections.
But hey, as long as its pureblood Romanians infecting one another, that’s okay, amirite?