Despite the escalating COVID-19 situation in Romania, there has been a surprising lack of international media coverage on the matter. Over the past three weeks, the country has seen a sharp increase in cases, resulting in overwhelmed hospitals, a shortage of beds, and long queues for outpatient services. The severity of the disease is evident, with many patients experiencing severe breathing issues and a rising demand for supplemental oxygen that may soon exceed supply.
Between September 18th and September 24th, Romania reported 14,861 new cases of COVID-19, with 5,064 of those being reinfections. Testing capacity has been limited, with only 4,475 RT-PCR tests conducted during that period. Rapid antigen tests, which are more accessible but in short supply, have been carried out at various testing centers. As a result, the actual number of infections is likely higher, as many symptomatic individuals are unable to get tested.
Hospitalizations have also increased, with 1,149 new admissions in the same week, including 74 patients requiring ICU care. It is worth noting that out of the 74 ICU cases, 48 had been vaccinated. Alarmingly, nearly 50 percent of all hospitalized COVID-19 patients were children under the age of 12. The week also saw 27 reported deaths, with the majority of the deceased having comorbidities and 13 of them being vaccinated.
Despite the concerning situation, there is limited information available about the specific SARS-CoV-2 strains or sub-lineages responsible for the surge in cases in Romania. Genomic sequencing is scarce, making it difficult to determine the predominant variants in circulation. However, data from the COV Spectrum platform suggests that strains like FL.18, FL.15, DV.7.1, GK.1.1, XCL, JG.3, GK.2.1, HK.3, and EG.5.1 are prevalent.
Of particular interest are the emerging FLip lineages, which have been found to be highly immune-evasive. There have been reports of recovered individuals testing positive again and experiencing disease severity shortly after. Further investigation is needed to determine if these cases are linked to the FLip variants.
As the situation in Romania continues to worsen, it is crucial to monitor the developments closely.