A Romanian maternity unit was being investigated on Tuesday after 10 newborns tested positive for the novel coronavirus, with the suspicion they contracted the virus from healthcare staff.
“The mothers tested negative, but the babies tested positive so we have to consider their contacts with medical staff,” Health Minister Nelu Tataru said in an interview with the Antena 3 TV station late on Monday.
The babies have no symptoms and all but one of them, together with their mothers, have gone into self-isolation at home.
Tataru pointed to the “failures in the activities of both maternity officials and the local public health directorate (DSP)” and promised severe measures if necessary.
The local DSP chief has already been dismissed.
“For the past two days I have felt like I am living in a horror film,” one of the mothers told the local pressalert.ro website.
“The staff were not wearing masks,” she said, adding that the mothers had heard on Wednesday through unofficial channels that there was a case of coronavirus in the hospital.
“On Thursday the hospital was disinfected with us inside,” she said.
The unit in the western Romanian city of Timisoara was briefly placed under quarantine on March 31 but was reopened the next day on the orders of the local DSP, which insisted at the time that there was “no risk of infection for patients or doctors” even though 13 members of staff had already tested positive.
The latest case adds to worries about how Romania’s system is coping with the epidemic.
Medical staff have spoken out in recent weeks over insufficient equipment for those on the frontline.
There are more than 4,400 confirmed cases in Romania so far and 180 people have died.
Around 700 of those infected are healthcare workers.