Situation of COVID-19 cases in Romania

  • Romania’s daily COVID-19 cases surpass 10,000 again: Romanian authorities reported more than 10,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, November 18, after several days in which the daily count stayed below this threshold. A total of 10,269 new coronavirus cases were confirmed in the past 24 hours, out of 37,906 tests, according to the official daily report released on Wednesday. Romania’s total number of infections thus reached 383,743. Bucharest registered 1,141 new cases in 24 hours, followed by the counties of Constanta – 528, Cluj – 501, and Iasi – 437. Bucharest and 23 counties across the country are now in the red scenario, after the 14-day incidence rate went over 3 per thousand inhabitants.  The counties with the highest incidence rates are Sibiu – 9.01 per thousand inhabitants, Cluj – 7.52, and Ilfov – 6.81. More than 261,300 COVID-19 patients were declared cured so far, while the death toll has risen to 9,429. 168 deaths were reported in the past 24 hours. The number of COVID-19 patients treated in intensive care units was 1,174 on Wednesday, November 18. In total, 13,179 coronavirus patients are hospitalized.
  • The Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine is 95% effective, shows the final results of clinical trials, announces the alliance: The vaccine of the American and German laboratories Pfizer BioNTech has a 95% efficiency in preventing covid-19 infection, shows the final results of their large-scale clinical trial, the alliance announced on Wednesday in a press release, AFP reported. The final results are better than those published last week, which showed an efficiency of “over 90%”.

 

Political and regulatory

 

  • Romanian PM explains why COVID-19 testing capacity isn’t fully used: Prime minister Ludovic Orban announced on November 17 that Romania has the capacity of running 53,000-54,000 COVID-19 tests per day. However, this capacity is not fully used because “either there are no requests, or the capacity to collect the samples is limited,” he explained. Many of those who get tested do it on their own request (and money) because “they are not included in the case definition,” PM Orban added, according to G4media.ro.
  • Romanian president Iohannis announces national vaccination strategy: Romania’s president Klaus Iohannis announced that the national COVID-19 vaccination strategy would be announced next week, but procedures have already been initiated to implement it. The vaccination will start with selected groups, starting with the medical staff, followed by risk groups and the staff operating in key sectors such as education, national security, transport, and energy, president Iohannis announced, Economica.net reported. Valeriu Gheorghita, a doctor specialized in infectious diseases at the Central Military Hospital, was appointed to coordinate the national vaccination campaign, Iohannis added. Earlier on Tuesday, a document from the Government stirred controversy as it listed the risk groups and “general population” at the bottom of a list of vaccination priorities that included the employees in the budgetary sector among the categories to be vaccinated first, Digi24 reported. The Health Ministry reportedly sent a request to the other ministries, inviting them to draft lists. Asked for comments the PM only said that “a priority ranking for the COVID-19 vaccination will be unveiled by President Klaus Iohannis”. In the wake of the recent fire at the ICU of the Neamt County Hospital that claimed ten lives and left others injured, including the doctor on call that night, President Iohannis underlined that the Romanian healthcare system must be redesigned from the ground up. Iohannis has slammed PSD and the politicians with ‘old vices’ for leaving Romania in collapse and without resources. “It is also true that, in the same spirit of blocking the efforts to stop the pandemic, the Social Democratic Party (PSD) local administrations played by ear when applying the measures from the top down, in an electoral spirit. In Piatra Neamt, the red barons changed hospital directors on their own, refusing to co-operate with the Public Health Directorate or with the  Health Ministry experts. The local PSD administrations are constantly obstructing government decisions, do not allocate enough resources, do not apply high standards and prefer improvisations that ultimately leave victims behind. The situation cannot continue like that,” the President said. President Iohannis also dismissed the comment made by Health Minister Nelu Tataru who assumed a collective political blame for the fire in Piatra Neamt, deeming it “a somewhat haste statement”. “We are not all to blame. Those who have been in government, those who have been in charge, those who manage the county hospitals in the counties and who do not allocate resources (…) I refer, of course, to PSD [Social Democratic Party]. This is the moral culprit. The technical culprit, in detail, will be found by the investigators in each case,” the president said.  Asked whether the Orban Government should resign as a result of the Piatra Neamt tragedy, President Klaus Iohannis spoke out against the idea, explaining that the Liberals had been in office for less than a year, that “they took over the governing at a time when everyone else chose to stand aside and comment.” “No. The Orban Government does not have to go home. It has been a Government for less than a year and has managed this huge crisis. The health system has been brought to this state and left without resources by previous PSD governments. I do not think that the Orban government should go home, on the contrary, the Orban government took over at a time when everyone else had chosen to stand aside and comment. That, in a pandemic, is not good. The tragedy in Piatra Neamţ shows the way in which PSD treated the Health system. It led to the bankruptcy of this system, “said Klaus Iohannis.
    • Comment: The President’s news conference was dominated by critics to the PSD, the President emphasizing just like several times before that he would like a new majority in parliament around the PNL after the general elections, one which he would fully support in an active role. Opposition leader from the PSD Marcel Ciolacu very harshly criticized the usage of a tragedy for political purposes, yet did not add any political value to convince the electorate that it would do better, or handle this crisis better, falling perfectly in the definition laid out by the President of just “commenting from the sidelines”.  In turn, Ludovic Orban responded by pointing out that Romania’s image is harmed through the attacks aimed at the President: “President Iohannis is the one who saved Romania’s image in the world, in a period in which others were making everything possible to take us to the periphery of the civilized world. Klaus Iohannis has managed to obtain unprecedented European financing, worth 80 billion euro, money which will be used for the development of Romania. We will continue to defend the President and won’t involve Klaus Iohannis in the disputes of political parties. The attacks and suburban language aimed at the President are harming Romania and don’t help the campaign of any political party”, concluding that “only a partnership between the President and the Government can guarantee, in the next four years, that Romania will walk the correct path of normality and development”.  Deputy PM Raluca Turcan also issued a support message for the President, similar to Ludovic Orban’s.  In a similar tune, Finance Ministry Florin Citu said that he “asked the general prosecutor on Wednesday to investigate all the statements made by the PSD leadership since the beginning of the state of emergency, considering that they instigated disobedience and undermining the state authority and brought huge costs to the economy”. This just shows PNL’s unified strategy for the election and their direction. PSD however would most likely promote social but controversial measures such as progressive taxation, and accuse the government’s handling of the health and financial crisis. With less than three weeks left until the elections, the campaign is just heating and other parties are expected to join the fight. USR has had only punctual responses so far, but seems to prefer being the default alternative for indecisive voters, knowing that it may later strike an agreement with the PNL when forming a majority.
  • President Iohannis: We’ve started looking for solution for new package to support Republic of Moldova: President Klaus Iohannis on Monday said that he discussed talks with Prime Minister Ludovic Orban on finding solutions for a new package of support for the Republic of Moldova. The head of state stated that, as soon as Maia Sandu takes over the mandate of president of the Republic of Moldova, he will pay an official visit to this country.
  • Iohannis: Romania cannot afford wrong steps in economic relaunch, competitiveness race: Romania cannot afford wrong steps in the economic relaunch and competitiveness race, President Klaus Iohannis declared on Tuesday at the opening of the “National Chart of Companies 2020” event, according to AGERPRES. At the same event, Prime Minister Ludovic Orban said that, after the first nine months of the year, Romania’s Gross Domestic Product is 2.4pct higher than the European average,” adding that the prospects for the economic recovery of the country “are very good”. He added that the government he leads considers the partnership with the business environment to be “the basic pillar of the relaunch.”
  • Orban: State of emergency not necessary if number of novel coronavirus infections does not increase: Prime Minister Ludovic Orban said on Tuesday at the Ministry of Health that a state of emergency would not be necessary if the number of new coronavirus infections did not increase, according to AGERPRES. Asked about the possibility of establishing a state of emergency after the parliamentary elections, the prime minister replied: “As long as things remain under control, as long as the number of infections does not increase, such a measure will not be necessary. You know very well that we have made it very clear that we do not want to impose restrictive measures.”
  • PM Orban: Health Minister to issue order regarding hospital units to make ICU beds available: Prime Minister Ludovic Orban on Wednesday said that, no later than Thursday, the order of the Minister of Health regarding the new hospital units to provide intensive care beds for treating patients with COVID-19 will be issued, according to AGERPRES.
  • New meeting to assess measures on management of COVID-19 epidemic, at Cotroceni Palace: Attending the meeting, from 13:00 hrs, will be Prime Minister Ludovic Orban, the Minister of Health, Nelu Tataru, the Head of the Department for Emergency Situations, Raed Arafat, and several specialists.
  • Law on declaration of June 4 as Trianon Treaty Day – promulgated: President Klaus Iohannis promulgated on Wednesday the law for declaring June 4 as Trianon Treaty Day, according to AGERPRES.
  • ForMin Aurescu: Elections in Republic of Moldova, a victory of democracy, European values and principles: The recent election of Maia Sandu as President of the Republic of Moldova is “a victory of democracy, of European values and principles,” said on Tuesday the head of Romanian diplomacy, Bogdan Aurescu, at the international conference The Road to Warsaw Security Forum. “We are very encouraged by this choice made by the citizens of the Republic of Moldova, because we always supported the European path of the Republic of Moldova, as we supported and continue to support the European and Euro-Atlantic path of Georgia and Ukraine,” Aurescu emphasized.
  • CCR decided that the appointment of Florin Iordache to head the Legislative Council is constitutional: The Romanian Constitutional Court (CCR) rejected, on Wednesday, PNL and USR’s notifications regarding the appointment of Florin Iordache as Chairman of the Legislative Council, sources from CCR told AGERPRES.

 

Impact on the economy

  • FinMin: Budget deficit to increase by RON 5 bln to 9.1% of GDP. Economic decline – 4.2%: Romanian Minister of Finance has announced on Wednesday that the budget deficit has increased by RON 5 billion up to 9.15 of the GDP, after forecast in August had given a deficit of 8.6% of GDP. The economic decline is 4.2%, according to the Ministry of Finance forecast, which offers a more optimistic perspective than the forecast provided by the European Commission. The Government plans to increase budgets of several ministries at the upcoming budget rectification, such as: Development Ministry by one billion RON, by RON 1.1 bln the Agriculture Ministry, with RON 160 M compensations for the farmers affected by drought. The budget of the health insurance sole fond will be supplemented by RON 1.1 billion. The Health Ministry gets RON 1.2 billion more. Among the ministries that are losing funds there are the Environment, Economy and Finance ones. The budget deficit forecast for 2021 is 7%. According to the Finance minister, the increase in the deficit is mainly generated by the failure to collect 4.2 billion lei in the last part of the year as a result of the decision to reschedule the payment of the debts that the companies incurred from March to October 2020, yet “this is money that companies keep, money that stays in the economy.”
  • MedLife’s largest hospital in western Romania becomes COVID-19 support unit: MedLife, the leader of the private medical services market in Romania, announced on Tuesday, November 17, that its Genesys hospital in Arad will become a COVID-19 support unit. It is the second private hospital in Romania to join the public medical system. The Genesys hospital is MedLife group’s largest medical unit in the western part of the country. It will be prepared to treat moderate and severe cases that require intensive care hospitalization.
  • Bucharest public transport company has new GM: Mihai Petcu is the GM of the Bucharest public transport company (STB) starting November 15. Petcu was previously deputy GM of the State Properties Agency between May and November of this year. Before this, he worked in the private sector, occupying various management positions at fleet management or operational leasing companies. He worked as a national sales director with FMS Fleet Management Services, as coordinator of operational leasing sales at Hertz Lease, the head of the operational leasing sales department with Sixt New Kopel Romania, and as car fleet sales specialist at Rădăcini Motors, among other positions. He was also a commercial director with the Netherlands-Romania Chamber of Commerce (NRCC), according to his resume. Among the new GM’s priorities are the current sanitary crisis and preparing the STB fleet for the winter season, the company announced. Among
  • Facebook launches news fact-checking program in Romania: Facebook announced the launch of its independent fact-checking program in Romania on Tuesday, November 17. The news shared on Facebook by users in Romania will be checked by AFP, an information examiner certified by the International Fact-Checking Network. When an information reviewer rates a post as fake, Facebook moves it lower in the News Feed, significantly reducing its distribution. When a post has been flagged as fake, Facebook also warns people who see the post or try to share it. This prevents the spread of false information and reduces the number of people who can see it.
  • Study: Romania’s agriculture to shrink by 15% this year: The turnover of Romanian agriculture companies will decrease by about 15% in the current year, according to KeysFin specialists’ estimates. The drought and the lack of infrastructure investments may have led to decreases in the turnover of the companies that operate in agriculture, from almost RON 46 billion (EUR 10 bln) in 2019 to some RON 39 bln (EUR 8 bln) in 2020. “This is the first year when the news is not good: we can only warn about the sharp decline in both turnover and profitability. More investments in infrastructure and the modernization of this sector would make Romanian agriculture less weather-sensitive,” said Roxana Popescu, managing director of KeysFin.
  • EBRD extends EUR 10 mln loan to Romania’s leading agricultural inputs distributor: The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) will extend a EUR 10 million loan to Romania’s leading distributor of agricultural inputs, Agricover, to help it meet growing working capital needs. Agricover supplies plant protection and nutrition products, certified seeds, fuel, and innovative agricultural solutions to Romanian farmers.
  • Study: Romania’s outsourcing sector could rise by 5-10% per year: The revenues generated by the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry in Romania are estimated at EUR 4.5 billion this year, a level similar to 2018 and 2019. The workforce in the sector has also remained unchanged at 131,000 employees, according to the latest report by the Association of Business Services Leaders (ABSL).
  • Unable to stay afloat anymore, increasingly more non-food retailers pull shutters down for good: Increasingly more non-food retailers are going bankrupt, unable to stay afloat on the market, the Romanian Retailers’ Organization – Roretail said in a release on Wednesday, according to AGREPRES. The organization has repeatedly sounded alarm, both publicly and through communications to decision-makers, about the extremely difficult situation of the Romanian non-food retailers.
  • Dozens of agricultural producers and workers are protesting in front of Gov’t building over closure of markets: Dozens of producers and workers in the agricultural sector coming from several areas of the country are participating, on Wednesday, in a protest in Victoria Square, in front of the Government building, against the decision of the Government to close markets that function in enclosed spaces, according to AGERPRES.
  • Number of job vacancies increases to 39,300 in Q3 of 2020: The number of job vacancies was 39,300 in the third quarter of 2020, up 5,200 from the previous quarter, according to data from the National Institute of Statistics (INS) released on Wednesday, as reported by AGREPRES. Compared to the same quarter of 2019, the job vacancy rate decreased by 0.30 percentage points, and the number of job vacancies by 15,700.
  • ING Bank Romania net profit drops 26 pct January through September 2020: At the end of September 2020, ING Bank Romania recorded a net profit of 443 million lei, down 26 pct compared to the same period last year, according to a press release sent on Wednesday to AGERPRES.
  • OMV Petrom invests 21 ml euros to increase Petrobrazi refinery’s biofuel blending capacity: OMV Petrom has increased the annual biofuel blending capacity of its Petrobrazi-based refinery from 200 kilotons to about 350 kilotons, on an investment of approximately 21 million euros, so as to supply fuels with increased levels of bio-components into finished products, the company said in a release on Wednesday, according to AGERPRES.
  • Regardless of a Romanian consortium not winning the bid, the CEZ transaction was not a failure for the Romanian state, says the Minister of Energy: The sale of CEZ Romania’s assets to an investment fund was not a failure for the Romanian state, even if a consortium of Romanian state companies was competing, stated the Minister of Energy, Virgil Popescu, pointing out that the company which offered the most won. He added that, at the moment, the transaction is under the analysis of the Competition Council. CEZ Group has approved the sale of its assets in Romania to funds managed by Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets (MIRA), the company announced on October 23. Among the offers was also one of the Romanian state companies Hidroelectrica, Electrica and SAPE, in a consortium.
  • Ministry of Economy refuses to subsidize CO2 costs of large industrial energy consumers who have laid off employees: Several large electricity consuming companies will not receive subsidies from the state to cover the costs of mandatory purchase of greenhouse gas emission certificates, based on the state aid scheme established by the Government with the approval of the European Commission, although they requested this, due to the fact that they made staff layoffs, announced the Minister of Economy, Virgil Popescu.