• Romania’s daily COVID-19 cases remain above 4,000, hit new record high: Romania reported 4,026 new coronavirus cases on Friday, October 16, marking the third day in a row with daily infections above 4,000. It is also the highest daily count reported in Romania since the start of the pandemic. Romanian officials also reported more than 4,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday (4,016) and Thursday (4,013). Bucharest recorded 592 new cases of coronavirus infection in the past 24 hours, according to the official report released on Friday. Next were the counties of Cluj – 267, Iasi – 176, Bacau – 153, Timis – 147, and Prahova – 145. More than 2.8 million tests were performed in Romania so far, of which 30,325 in the last 24 hours.  The number of COVID-19 patients treated in intensive care units was 726 on Friday – the highest so far. In total, 9,838 coronavirus patients are hospitalized.  The incidence of positive cases per 1,000 inhabitants over the last 14 days (relevant for the restrictions ceilings) is yet to calculated, the report notes for the second day in a row, after the scandal regarding the miscommunication between the Government’s Strategic Communication Group and the National Public Health Institute (INSP) of the figures. Meanwhile, Health Min Nelu Tataru forecasted on Friday that over the next few days there will be a progressive increase in the number of cases. “Second wave? I think we have joined all the waves at the moment. In the context in which Europe has entered the second wave, we did not come out of the first wave and we caught the second one,” Nelu Tataru told journalists.
  • Tătaru says Romania cannot start local production of Remdesivir in less than two years: It would be impossible to locally produce the drug Remdesivir, used for the treatment of COVID-19 patients, this year or next year, said the Minister of Health, Nelu Tătaru, who pointed out that a special production line is required, which the Romanian drugmakers do not have. Minister Nelu Tătaru was asked, on Thursday, in Timișoara, why the Romanian state did not take steps, like the Hungarian state, to obtain a license for the production of Remdesivir. Tataru also said that the Romanian state supports these drug manufacturers obtain a license and that on Wednesday a discussion took place at the Government level with all Romanian drugmakers and those with joint capital. Meanwhile, the WHO has contested in a study the claims that Remdesivir lowers hospitalization duration or improves the patients chances of survival. The drugmaker in turn questioned WHO’s study.

 

Political and regulatory

 

  • All Romanian hospitals prepare for Covid-19 patients as infection rate rises: Romanian hospitals, other than those already treating Covid-19, will have to make 10% of their intensive care capacities and 15% of the other capacities available for such patients, health minister Nelu Tataru announced on Thursday. Furthermore, the patients with mild symptoms and those with no symptoms will no longer be admitted to hospitals and will stay at home, under their family doctors’ supervision. Asked by the press in how much time he believes Bucharest will reach an incidence of 3 cases per thousand people, in the context of SARS-CoV-2 infections, Nelu Tataru stated that we are at a moment in which we have an increased community transmission in 11 counties and Bucharest.
  • PM slams CCR following decision on delaying general election: PM Ludovic Orban has slammed the Constitutional Court’s reasoning on ruling that general election due in December can be delayed till March, arguing that the CCR must be changed and cleaned from “politruks” who must be replaced by technocrats. In retort, CCR president Valer Dorneanu said he shall refrain from retorting to the prime minister, while assuring that CCR is defending the rule of law and that all constitutional judges are “experienced professionals”. In his turn, PSD chair Marcel Cilacu retorted that the premier’s attack against CCR is unprecedented and represents “at attack against the rule of law”.
  • Former treasurer of Romania’s Social Democratic Party sentenced for misuse of public funds: Romania’s High Court (ICCJ) sentenced MP Mircea Gheorghe Draghici to 4 years in prison for committing the crime of misusing party subsidies.
  • Government approves the establishment of the Animal Police in Romania: The government approved the emergency ordinance on setting up the Animal Police in Romania, interior minister Marcel Vela announced. The new police department will have structures in all counties and operate with 488 employees and 88 veterinarians.
  • Education minister: Schools in Bucharest are preparing for the red scenario: Education minister Monica Anisie has announced on Thursday that the ministry is preparing for the red scenario in Bucharest, after 777 new COVID-19 infections have been reported in the Capital.
  • DSU head Raed Arafat comments on the severity of the 2nd wave of the pandemic: The head of the Emergency Situations Department (DSU), Raed Arafat, said on Friday that the severity of wave 2 of the COVID-19 pandemic will depend on people’s reaction to compliance with certain restrictions. “Wave 2, not only us, but also the northern hemisphere, we think it will be during the winter. Now, how hard wave 2 will be depends on us. If we manage to stop the increase, to keep a plateau, to start a lasting decline, it is clear that we can keep the situation under control, as we kept it in the first wave,” said Arafat, in Ciolpani, where the reception of some sanitary materials took place. Arafat noted that a significant number of tests are currently being performed compared to other countries. “It has gone up from 3,000 to almost 25-27,000 tests done daily, so capacity has increased, but clearly any additional testing capacity is welcome,” he said. Raed Arafat also said that obtaining much faster tests will be helpful, tests that do not require long-term laboratory operations. “There is a chance that we will bring rapid antigen tests, which we will use at the front line for symptomatic cases,” Arafat said.
  • Real number of daily COVID-19 cases in Romania is 10 times higher than reported, health expert says: The real number of daily COVID-19 cases in Romania is actually ten times higher than the official figures, according to Alexandru Rafila, the president of the Romanian Society of Microbiology. For example, he said that in a day with 4,000 new coronavirus cases officially diagnosed in Romania, the real number of infections is 40,000. Alexandru Rafila, who has been one of the most visible health specialists in Romania during the pandemic, also announced on Thursday that he will join the Social Democratic Party (PSD) and will run in the parliamentary elections on the party’s lists. Rafila will thus open the PSD list for the Chamber of Deputies in Bucharest, according to Digi24. He also said that being a member of a political party “is an opportunity to make a difference in our daily lives.”
  • Gov’t Dept SecGen Barbu, in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19: Deputy Secretary General of the Government Costel Barbu has announced that he is in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19, according to AGERPRES.
  • President Iohannis to participate Monday in Virtual Summit of Three Seas Iniative: President Klaus Iohannis will participate, on Monday, in the Virtual Summit and the Web Forum of the Three Seas Initiative, organized by Estonia in videoconference format. “Progress is expected in the implementation of the list of priority interconnection projects agreed at the Bucharest Summit, which was subsequently added on, as well as in the functioning of the Three Seas Initiative Investment Fund, in which Romania, through EximBank, and Poland, through the Development Bank (BGK), are founding states. A report on smart connectivity will also be launched on the occasion of the Summit,” the Presidential Administration said.
  • Prime Minister Ludovic Orban: ‘People in vulnerable categories to be immunized first when anti-COVID vaccine ready’: Prime Minister Ludovic Orban said on Thursday that when the anti-COVID vaccine arrives in Romania, people in vulnerable categories will be immunized first and probably for free. He added that the Government has adopted a memorandum in this regard and that he has information that there are “about two companies” that have taken important steps, namely they are in the final phase of testing the vaccine. AGERPRES .
  • PM underscores gov’t’ maintains position in respect to flat tax being maintained: Prime Minister Ludovic Orban, on the occasion of his meeting with the representatives of the Coalition for Romania’s Development (CDR), underscored that the government remains firm in its decision to maintain the flat tax, while also adding that there are no tax increases being considered at this point and neither new taxes will be introduced, according to AGERPRES. According to a post on the Government’s Facebook page, the proposal that Romania makes to the European Commission regarding the National Recovery and Resilience Plan was the main topic discussed at the consultations between PM Ludovic Orban and the representatives of the CDR. “The consultations are held before we put up for public debate, in November, the proposal that Romania is going to make to the European Commission regarding the National Recovery and Resilience Plan. The National Recovery and Resilience Plan, which is currently worked upon by the Ministry of European Funds, will be based on three pillars: supporting projects regarding the transport infrastructure, supporting projects meant to reduce climate change effects and stimulating business environment,” reads the post.
  • The Liberals challenged the salary increases granted during the pandemic: PNL deputies challenged, on Friday, at the Constitutional Court of Romania (CCR), the amendments to the Salary Law and the normative act regarding the staged increase of the Reference Social Index (ISR). “The group of PNL deputies challenged at CCR two laws voted by the majority of PSD, in the last final voting session. The first law challenged is the one regarding the granting of salary increases and bonuses in the central public administration and in the Parliament. The amendments regarding the 15% increase for ‘labor complexity’ were not discussed in the Senate. We therefore consider that the principle of bicameralism to have been breached. At the same time, the group of PNL deputies notified the CCR in the case of the phased increase of the ISR, which also implies the increase of social benefits, of the minimum guaranteed income type. PNL encourages work, not unemployment, which is why we have legislated that those who refuse a job should no longer receive social benefits,” leader of PNL deputies, Florin Roman said in a statement. He also pointed out that PNL is “ready to challenge at CCR any populist PSD project that blows up Romania’s finances”.

Impact on the economy

  • INS: 17.3pct growth in volume of construction works in Jan-Aug, gross series: The total volume of construction works increased by 17.3 per cent, as gross series, in January-August 2020, show data published on Friday by the National Institute of Statistics (INS). At the same time, as series adjusted depending on the number of business days and seasonality, the total volume of construction works increased in the reference period by 19.2 per cent.
  • BCR chief economist says rating agencies will push decision on Romania until after the elections: The major rating agencies, all of which have scheduled reviews for Romania’s sovereign debt in October or early December, will wait to see the new Government’s plans after the December 6 elections, says BCR’s chief economist Ciprian Dascalu. This scenario is based on consensus expectations that the general elections will take place on December 6, and the Liberals will be able to form a new Government that will come up with a credible fiscal consolidation plan. It remains unclear how such a plan would look, but finance minister Florin Citu assured it would not include higher taxes. Romanian finance minister Florin Citu assured that the Government would not increase the VAT rate this year or next year. The Government has resources to finance the budget deficit this year and has already identified resources for next year’s deficit, Citu explained, according to Wall-street.ro.
  • Romanian delivery platform Tazz by eMag gets EUR 5 mln financing: Romanian Tazz by eMag delivery platform has attracted investments of over RON 25 million (EUR 5 mln) in the last six months and announces the development of new applications for customers and couriers, the growth of the team, and the expansion of partnerships with restaurants and retailers.
  • Romania’s electricity imports test technological limitations: Romania’s electricity imports have exceeded the threshold of 2,000 MW per hour, despite the unexceptional consumption and normal weather conditions. With these imports, the country seems to have come very close to the technical limit of the interconnection lines with neighboring networks.