October 27, 2021

BUCHAREST (Reuters) – Romanian senators narrowly rejected a bill on Wednesday requiring medical staff, public sector workers and those of large privately-owned firms to hold a COVID-19 health pass, but parliament’s lower house has the final say and could revive it.

The bill, introduced by centrist lawmakers and designed to boost vaccine uptake, was two votes short of the required majority to pass.

Romania is the European Union’s second-least vaccinated country and is at the forefront of a wave of COVID-19 sweeping across central and eastern Europe.

If adopted, the bill would require employees to show they are either vaccinated, have already recovered from the virus or have a recent negative COVID-19 test. Employees must pay for testing themselves. Failure to comply would incur fines for employers and 30-day suspensions without pay or even termination for workers.

The Liberal cabinet, which fell in a no confidence vote this month and is governing with limited powers, has tightened restrictions from Monday.

Only people who have been vaccinated or who have recovered from the virus are allowed access to most non-essential public venues. But the interim government needs parliamentary support to mandate a health pass.

Lawmakers from the opposition leftist Social Democrat party and ultra-nationalist AUR voted against the bill and some said, if it becomes law, they will challenge it at the Constitutional Court on the grounds of discrimination.

Daily COVID-19 inoculation numbers have reached pandemic highs this month, as Romanians respond to dramatic death rates and newly enforced restrictions. On Wednesday, there were no available intensive care beds across the country.

(Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Christina Fincher)

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