Moldova’s response to COVID-19
Published by Moldova.org on August 2, 2020
By Maria Dulgher
During the last week, 344 contraventions related to non-compliance with anti-COVID-19 requirements were recorded in the Republic of Moldova, as the representative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), Sergiu Golovaci, reported.
The National Public Health Agency (NPHA) documented violations of epidemiological norms in the case of 20 beauty service providers, 16 commercial units and 7 medical and pharmaceuticals service providers last week. The grocery markets and shops usually get overcrowded, all preventive requirements being ignored or superficially met both by employees and clients.
Civilians are fined for violating the self-isolation regime, not taking preventive measures, not keeping social distance or participating in unauthorised events and meetings. At the same time, the number of citizens who notify the police when observing cases of non-compliance with prevention measures have increased, the MIA representatives announced.
Authorities claim that the citizens are manifesting irresponsibility when asked to follow the established rules. That is certainly so, but only up to a certain point, as the evolution of the pandemic situation depends, first of all, on the anti-coronavirus measures the authorities take and the way these measures are enforced.
Since the beginning of the pandemic period, Moldovan authorities established a series of important measures to fight the novel coronavirus. The state of Public Health Emergency was prolonged until August 31. Therefore, restrictions regarding keeping social distance, hand hygiene rules, wearing masks in public transport, commercial spaces and closed public spaces, are maintained, along with the restrictions regarding groups of maximum 3 people in public spaces, meetings with the participation of maximum 50 people, restricted access to public spaces of people aged 63 and over, no private events allowed, etc. Nightclubs, educational and cultural units, sport centres, rest camps, treatment institutions, cinemas, concert halls, theatres remain closed.
Still, people tend to violate the imposed restrictions, that having a direct effect on the number of confirmed cases. The MIA representatives reported multiple cases when fines were charged for the illicit organisation of weddings and other celebrations or allowing more people than the restricted level in restaurants and bars. People seem ignorant on the one hand, but also desperate on the other hand, especially when talking about the industries that were affected the most by the pandemic restrictive measures.
Here are just some possible reasons why people tend to not follow the rules and restrictions in the Republic of Moldova:
The influence of powerful anti-models
The most iconic example of a public anti-model for people when it comes to following rules is President Igor Dodon. First, the president expressed a superficial and uninformed opinion regarding the novel coronavirus, saying it is not more than a flu that affects merely older people. Moreover, Dodon repeatedly posted photos and videos on social media where it can be observed that meetings with local public authorities, businesses, civilians, including older people and children, were conducted without wearing a protective mask and keeping social distance, especially indoors.
Recently, the Minister of Internal Affairs, Pavel Voicu, declared that President Dodon will not be sanctioned for non-compliance with the rules and measures for preventing COVID-19 contagion, despite the fact it was clear that he publicly disregarded them.
Conspiracies and wrong beliefs
People in Moldova have to deal with a lot of fake news, conspiracies and wrong beliefs regarding the novel coronavirus. According to a survey conducted by the WatchDog.MD community, in cooperation with CBS Research, 45% of the Moldovan citizens who answered the opinion poll don’t trust at all or trust very little the World Health Organisation as a source of information. 5.2% of them don’t even know anything about the organisation. For Moldovans, especially those from rural areas, local news, neighbours and church are the most ‘trusted’ sources of information.
The authorities from Moldova make very little efforts to combat such wrong beliefs. In July, the NPHA published an article containing the most often myths related to the novel coronavirus that circulate in the Moldovan society the counterarguments to them. But here is where the authorities’ efforts seem to stop in this regard.
Low trust in state institutions
According to a study conducted by the Association of Sociologists and Demographers of the Republic of Moldova at the beginning of this year, 31.9% of survey respondents do not trust the parliament, 22.8% do not count on politicians and their activity and 27.3% of respondents don’t trust the judiciary from Moldova. Earlier surveys show similar results.
People in Moldova are really hesitant when it comes to national statistics and prefer to address a problem to the police or to a medical institution only in the very last moment. The feeling that they are on their own is deeply rooted in their minds for decades. This is one of the reason why they tend to not follow the rules and comply with the law. Especially, that is valid if the rules are not in their direct interests.
Population living in poverty and affected businesses
A recent UNDP report stated that, during the coronavirus pandemic, people having a low level of income who are not socially insured are the most vulnerable to the risks that COVID-19 implies.
According to the NBS data, 23% of Moldovans have an income below the poverty line, and the income of 8.7% of the population is below the extreme poverty line. That represents at least a quarter of population that doesn’t afford to regularly buy protective equipment or expensive medicines (if it’s the case), people who use the overcrowded public transportation (especially in big cities) and grocery markets, people who don’t have access to trusted sources of information and don’t make it a top priority.
There are pension and allowance beneficiaries in Moldova who still can’t afford to take all protective measures against COVID-19. There are business that received very little or almost no support from the Moldovan Government during the pandemic.
There are people who are more vulnerable to fear, fake news, discrimination, risk of contagion, partially due to their ignorance, imprudence or indifference, but also due to the poor implementation and enforcement of rules and restrictions.