Romanian seasonal workers fly to Germany despite coronavirus pandemic

The first charter flight with 90 Romanian seasonal workers on board departed for Germany from the Traian Vuia International Airport of Temesvár/Timișoara. The Temes/Timiș Public Health Directorate says the departure, which was supervised by Dr. Virgil Musta of the Victor Babeș Hospital for infectious diseases, went without problems and marked the first airport boarding safety check of its kind following strict epidemic protocols.

The health institution equipped the airport’s personnel with epidemic protection equipment, and the passengers were guided through the overall boarding procedure. The health status of each departing seasonal worker was tested with long-range thermometers, the directorate informed Romanian newspaper TimisPlus.

The new boarding protocols, which cover all procedures between the arrival and departure of the plane, were developed by Dr. Musta, who supervised the departure of the first charter flight from Temesvár.

This was the first of 25 flights scheduled before the end of June. There will be workers from other counties on board as well.

Things didn’t go so smoothly in Kolozsvár/Cluj last Thursday. Images and videos of some 1,800 seasonal workers waiting shoulder to shoulder in a packed parking lot at the airport went viral on mainstream and social media. Authorities opened an investigation into whether the crowd had breached strict social distancing and other rules to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. Three people from Suceava even ended up with a criminal record for breaching the quarantine; the men had wanted to board the charter flight transporting passengers to seasonal work in Germany when police intercepted them at the airport and transported them back to Suceava, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in Romania.

Despite restrictions on travel during the pandemic,

Romania is now allowing citizens to leave for seasonal harvesting work, as the German government decided to allow 80,000 seasonal food harvesters to enter the country –

40,000 in April and the other half in May. That still falls short of the 300,000 workers sought by German farmers for the 2020 harvest.

With the agreement between Romania and Germany in place, Lufthansa subsidiary Eurowings announced that it will provide the charter flights to transport the tens of thousands of laborers from Transylvania. When the workers arrive in Germany, they will work under quarantine conditions for two weeks: no one will be allowed to leave the farms to which they are assigned.

Author: István Fekete