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InfoCons consumer protection association requests postponement of HoReCa establishments' reopening

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The InfoCons consumer protection association is calling on the Romanian authorities to postpone the reopening of hotels and restaurants from May 15, as "social distancing is impossible to implement, which will facilitate the spread of COVID-19".

"Information is circulating about the possible opening of restaurants, hotels, terraces, playgrounds for children and pet facilities starting with May 16, 2020. The customers have started booking various accommodation facilities, but what safety conditions are in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19? Clear measures must be adopted regarding the people's access to these spaces. Most restaurants operate in enclosed spaces, without terraces, and mask-wearing rules are anyway impossible to comply with since this is where meals are being served. Social distancing becomes impossible to implement, which will facilitate the spread of Covid 19. We ask that these units should not open to the general public, and for seaside or mountain high-capacity hotels, where access and indoor mobility - in elevators, for example - is prone to crowding, to take clear measures and the competent authorities to monitor these aspects," InfoCons said in an open letter to the Presidency of Romania, the government, the government's Secretariat General, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Economy, Energy and Business Environment.

Inquiring about the possibility to enforce social distancing in accommodation and dining facilities, the document notes that such establishments already charge booking fees in advance, although the conditions for their reopening are not yet known. "Do not pay in advance for reservations that cannot be honored! Health is in our hands and the decision belongs to us. Always make informed choices!,'' the letter reads.

The InfoCons Consumer Protection Association, a full member of the consumer rights championing organisation Consumers International, was established in 2003 to meet the needs of Romanian consumers.

On Friday, Public Finance Minister Florin Citu announced on his Facebook page that he was planning a meeting this week with the tourism representative organizations in order to identify additional measures to help the companies in the business overcome this period.

Minister of Economy, Energy and Business Environment Virgil Popescu also said on his social media page that a support package for the tourism industry is in the making, with a component aimed at reducing electricity costs of hotels and restaurants and another one targeting their working capital, specifically grants for financing the expenses with fitting out their spaces so that they are able to receive tourists.

The president of the Federation of Romanian Tourism Promotion Associations (FAPT), Corina Martin, said the previous week that holiday bookings are already coming in in large numbers, even for the first weekend after the travel restrictions will be supposedly lifted, specifically for May 15 - 17.

In a press briefing on April 21 President Klaus Iohannis announced that the coronavirus lockdown measures might be relaxed after May 15, but only provided that the number of infections and deaths is on a descending trend. The next day, Iohannis specified that as of mid-May, wearing protective masks in enclosed public spaces and public transportation is mandatory, and that a "fairly detailed" plan of the relaxation measures will be presented shortly.

In his turn, Minister of the Interior Marcel Vela mentioned that outings to restaurants or shows will most likely not be possible from May 15, and that the first relaxation measures will refer to the movement in public areas, parks and pedestrian spaces.

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