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Photographer urges Romanians to get COVID vaccine

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By Josephine Joly  & Marie Jeanne Ion
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Photographer Cristian Movilă in front of his slogan 'They suffocate. They implore. They regret'.
Photographer Cristian Movilă in front of his slogan 'They suffocate. They implore. They regret'.   -   Copyright  Euronews

"They suffocate. They beg. They regret."

This is the message displayed by photographer Cristian Movilă in the centre of Romania's capital, Bucharest, as the struggles to overcome its fourth wave of COVID-19.

After spending more than 150 hours shooting inside intensive care units, the Romanian photographer is desperately trying to convince people to get the vaccine.

Fewer than 50% of the Romanian population is fully vaccinated, and health authorities have repeatedly called for an increase in vaccination rates, saying "prevention is the best protection".

"If you show them the reality, very raw, from the intensive care, you cannot unsee, you cannot delete that from your memory. So I hope it will stay there and after a day or two, or a week of this kind of messages and images, that they will decide (to get the vaccine)," Movilă told Euronews.

In Romania, 54,343 people have died of the coronavirus since the pandemic began, according to the latest data. In the last three weeks, more than 300 people have died from the disease every day.

And although the cases seem to be on a downward trajectory, the current bi-weekly average of 724.42 citizens testing positive for COVID-19 is still considered to be grave in a country of 19.29 million.​

Hospitals across the country are struggling to save thousands as more than 90% of the critical patients are not vaccinated, despite the abundance of free jabs.

Romania's government and health authorities are trying to convince people that vaccines are safe and that they are a powerful tool in this war against the virus.

"Vaccines are wonderful. What they managed to do in one year is incredible and we are very appreciative for the effort that the worldwide community made to make the vaccine possible," said Dr Daniel Miu.

He was backed by the country's vaccination campaign director, Dr Valeriu Gheorghiță.

"The pandemic will not be over with this 4th wave. Unfortunately, the virus will remain within the community, will continue to circulate and will generate many cases from now on. Winter is around the corner and there is no reason to believe that the situation will improve. On the contrary: this is the cold season, it is the season of the respiratory diseases and COVID-19 is a respiratory spreading virus," Gheorghiță added.

The urgency of the situation in Romania has also reached Brussels.

The EU's internal market commissioner, Thierry Breton, who is in charge of the EU vaccine task force, sent a message to Romanians while visiting the country.

"To fight the pandemic we have two tools – the vaccine, but also the green certificate that gives all of us freedom of movement," he said.

"As a commissioner, I have worked with my team to make this certificate available. It's working now for the 27 countries but also for many more – it's working so well, it's so useful that now 75 countries outside the EU have already adopted the certificate," Breton went on.

Romania's mandatory green certificate implementation law is currently blocked in the National Parliament after being rejected by Social Democrats and far-right senators.

Discussions are ongoing in parliament.

Romania also turned to the EU to receive help to tackle the virus through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.