Romania: Criminal implications of measures ordered to prevent infection with the new coronavirus
Given the pandemic situation generated by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), public authorities can order exceptional measures to prevent the spread of infection with this new virus, and noncompliance with these measures can have criminal implications.
Art. 352 of the Criminal Code provides that noncompliance with measures ordered to prevent or combat the spreading of contagious diseases constitutes the criminal offence hampering disease control, which is punishable by a criminal fine or imprisonment, regardless of whether the noncompliance was intentional (punishable by a criminal fine or imprisonment of six months to two years) or negligent/committed with basic intent (punishable by a criminal fine or imprisonment from one to six months).
In order to better understand the situations in which this offence could be cited, the following aspects need to be considered:
- The offence is subject to the existence of specific measures ordered by public authorities in order to prevent or combat infection with the new coronavirus. Until the present moment, measures ordered by the authorities include, for example, mandatory quarantine or self-isolation for persons suspected of having the new coronavirus, retailers’ obligation to implement measures in order to avoid queues, etc. The mandatory measures ordered by the authorities in the context of the novel coronavirus can be accessed on the website of the Romanian Ministry for Internal Affairs ;
- The offence is subject to a specific result, which means that noncompliance with a measure ordered to prevent or combat infection with the new coronavirus constitutes an offence only if this noncompliance caused the COVID-19 infection to spread, i.e. only if at least one additional person has been infected as a result of the noncompliance;
- Depending on the evolution of the infection in those persons who have been infected as a result of noncompliance with ordered prevention measures, additional offences such as bodily harm, bodily harm with basic intent, etc. could be cited;
- According to civil law, persons to whom the new coronavirus has spread as a result of another party’s noncompliance with ordered prevention measures can join the resulting criminal cases as civil parties and request damages for the adverse circumstances suffered. Considering the fact that the new coronavirus can lead to the death of vulnerable persons, damages sought could be very high;
- The offence can be committed by natural persons who, for example, do not comply with quarantine or isolation measures, as well as by legal entities that do not comply with the obligations established by the authorities (for example, the obligation of retailers, including pharmacies and hypermarkets, to prevent queues or the obligation to refrain from organizing or participating in meetings/events with more than 100 people).
Given the alarming evolution of the pandemic situation caused by the new coronavirus, prosecutors have already opened several criminal cases involving situations in which persons intentionally did not declare correctly the areas where they had travelled or the persons they had contact with, and these false statements led to other people being infected with the novel coronavirus.
Considering these aspects, as well as the speed with which the new coronavirus is spreading in Romania, natural persons and legal entities must inform themselves of the prevention measures ordered by the authorities and comply with these measures in order to do everything possible to prevent people from becoming infected with this new virus and to avoid the potential penalties provided by law.