COVID-19 in Romania: transnational labour, geopolitics, and the Roma ‘outsiders’
Eurasian Geogr. Econ.
COVID-19 has played out in Romania in a similar way to that in many other European countries. The government implemented decisive early measures which were able to keep the infection and mortality rates relatively low. This paper considers three distinctive aspects of the situation in Romania. First, the situation was complicated by the influence of transnational migrant workers, large numbers of whom returned to Romania when the pandemic started, accounting for distinct geographical variations in the rates of infection. At the same time, large numbers were able to leave the country at the height of the pandemic because they were “needed” for low-paid agricultural/social care work in western European countries. Second, the pandemic placed tension on Romania’s relationship with the EU, whilst highlighting a number of existing issues between Romania and its neighbors. Third, Romania’s strict lockdown measures exacerbated long-standing internal tensions, particularly with regard to the large and marginalized Roma community. The paper concludes by considering some of the possible longer-term implications for Romania of the COVID-19 pandemic.