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Health Minister Alexandru Rafila said on Friday that the average COVID-19 bed occupancy rate in Romania is 16% nationwide, with the highest value, 34%, reported by Suceava County.

The clarifications were made at a joint news conference with Education Minister Sorin Cimpeanu on a new joint order of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health regarding health and safety in schools. According to him, in-person instruction in the pre-university/related schools will depend on the occupancy rate at county level of the hospital beds intended for the care of COVID-19 patients.

"We have envisaged an instance in which schools in a county will close when 75% of the COVID-19 beds are occupied under resilience plans," Rafila said.

He added that bed occupancy data will be published on the website of each public health directorate. On Friday, the highest bed occupancy rate was reported by Suceava County (34%); it was followed by Cluj County (28%). In Bucharest City and Ilfov County the occupancy rate was 16%.

Rafila said schools should be kept open, but not at any cost. He added that following the expansion of the Omicron strain, the number of hospitalisations is making up about 2-2.5% of the number of new daily cases of SARS-CoV-2. He showed that the COVID-19 Omicron variant can spread to vaccinated people as well, but in a "much easier" form than in unvaccinated people.

"We need to adapt the way we open schools or keep them open to epidemiological developments, and also to the new features of the Omicron strain, which have changed the picture - if you look at what is happening now in Romania and in other countries as against the past. This disease has a much higher transmissibility at the moment. Incredible numbers: for example, in France now there are 300,000 new cases in one day; in the United Kingdom and Italy - more than 200,000 new cases in one day. These are countries that have a population about three times larger than the population of Romania," said Rafila. AGERPRERS (RO- author: Irinela Visan, editor: Mihai Simionescu; EN - author: Corneliu-Aurelian Colceriu, editor: Adina Panaitescu)

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