Situation of COVID-19 cases in Romania

  1. Number of daily Covid-19 cases still over 2,000: 2,086 new cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Romania in the past 24 hours, out of 25,797 tests. 37 people infected with the novel coronavirus have died in the last day, while the number of patients in intensive care is on the rise (557). Most new cases in the last 24 hours were registered in Bucharest (301), followed by Iasi (133), Constanta (122), Cluj and Bacau (104 each), Teleorman (88),  and Timis (86).

 

 

Political and regulatory

 

  1. Romania to introduce new rules for those arriving from countries with high Covid-19 case counts: Romania’s Committee for Emergency Situations is to set on Monday, October 5, new rules for those arriving from countries with a high number of coronavirus cases in the past two weeks, prime minister Ludovic Orban said. “We did not update this situation because there was an EU debate, and we waited for a unified decision at a European level. No decision was taken, so, on Monday, we will decide to introduce restrictions for those who arrive from countries where the number of infections exceeds those in Romania in the past 14 days,” Orban said. There will be different requirements, depending on the length of the stay in the country, the PM explained in a press conference on September 30. Those who remain in the country for only three days will no longer have to quarantine, as long as they have a negative Covid-19 test carried out at most 48 hours before arrival. Those who plan to spend more than three days in Romania will have two options, either enter a 14-day quarantine or enter a period of quarantine and perform a Covid-19 test on the fifth day. If the test is negative, they can exit the quarantine.
  2. Head of the Romanian Microbiology Society (SRM) Alexandru Rafila:’The number of cases is increasing due to the increasing community transmission’: Head of the Romanian Microbiology Society (SRM) Alexandru Rafila says the number of cases of infection with the novel coronavirus is increasing due to the “increasing” community transmission that occurs in various areas of the country, including the Capital City Bucharest, according to Agerpres. Asked if he thinks schools reopening has anything to do with the increase in the number of infections with the novel coronavirus, Rafila said: “My opinion is that yes, there passed 10-12 days since the reopening of schools and I had said previously that we needed to see what happened in 12-14 days. And what we see so far is a large number of cases. On Sunday we had a record for a Sunday, on Saturday we had a record for a Saturday, today we have an absolute record. We are now waiting to see if the situation stabilizes in the following days and we reach the famous plateau, or the growth will continue.” In his opinion, the number of people admitted to ICUs will increase “for sure.” He mentioned that, according to a European index, Romania is next to Bulgaria on the last spots of the ranking in terms of health system performance.
  3. New Bucharest mayor: City Hall unlikely to fund Christmas, Easter fairs: The City Hall is unlikely to allot funding for Christmas or Easter fairs given its difficult financial situation, newly elected Bucharest mayor Nicuşor Dan said. He explained that the funding needs to be directed to emergencies, such as the city’s centralized thermal heating system or pollution. On the topic of the city’s centralized heating system, Dan said he would focus this winter on damage control and having the need equipment and teams ready to intervene. He said he expected hundreds of breakdowns to happen. Major repair works to the city’s centralized heating system are planned for the spring of next year, using EU funding, he said the previous day. The Minister of Finance, Florin Cîțu, declared that the Capital City Hall has only 10.3 million lei in its accounts and that it will get involved to solve the city’s problems. “That’s why I said that I am elegant when I speak about a difficult situation and I promised that I will get involved to solve the problems of the people of Bucharest,” Citu said.
  4. Bucharest Mayor-elect Dan: After start of procedures for Bucharest large problems, dismissals to follow: The Mayor-elect of Bucharest, Nicusor Dan, announced on Wednesday that, following the start of procedures for the large problems that Bucharest has, there will be dismissals in the institutional apparatus, reminding at the same time that the political commitment regards “the disestablishment of a large majority of municipal companies.”
  5. Romania’s remedial changes to Justice laws to address EC’s concerns: Romania’s justice minister Catalin Predoiu presented, on September 30, the main amendments to the Justice Laws, which are roughly in line with the European Commission’s comments in the 2020 Rule of Law Report. Specifically, the Justice Ministry proposes the dissolution of the Section for the Investigation of Offences in the Judiciary (SIIJ) tasked exclusively with prosecuting crimes committed by judges and prosecutors.
  6. EC expects RO Govt. to “restore the path of judicial reform”:  Romania’s Government continued to affirm its commitment to restore the path of judicial reform in 2020, after the reverses of 2017-2019. This has led to a significant decrease in tensions with the judiciary, the European Commission (EC) says in the 2020 Rule of Law Report. However, progress towards amending the relevant legislation has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic combined with the forthcoming national elections, the Commission continued – implying that most of the work in pursuing judicial reforms is still due. PSD seized the occasion to label the report as “a red card to President Iohannis”.
  7. Iohannis: PNL – engine of change, PSD – promoter of toxic policy: President Klaus Iohannis said on Wednesday that the National Liberal Party (PNL) is the “engine of change” and the Social Democratic Party (PSD) – the “promoter of toxic politics”, showing that this is why collaborations between the two parties are excluded. According to him, local elections were won by the PNL with a political score of 34 pct, pointing out that it is the first time in post-December history that the PSD has lost local elections. Despite being a press conference held in the first day in which Romania exceeded 2,000 cases of COVID-19 infections, President Klaus Iohannis mentioned “PSD” and “PSD members” 17 times, twice more compared to the words “pandemic” or “COVID-19”, according to a speech analysis drawn by Libertatea. Other main statements:
    1. European funds should be conditional on respect for the rule of law.
    2. A postponement of the parliamentary elections is not appropriate.
    3. Regarding the accusations of electoral fraud in the local elections, “the guilty will be held accountable”.
    4. According to the specialists, a second wave of the pandemic is imminent in Europe, Romanians must follow the rules with rigor, to avoid unnecessary crowding and travels. At the moment, the priority is that the health care system should not be overwhelmed by a significant number of COVID-19 patients.
    5. Iohannis also spoke of reintroducing the competition for promotion to the High Court of Cassation and Justice, ensuring the independence of the prosecutor, a transparent appointment procedure of high-ranking prosecutors, the re-establishment of an institutional balance in appointing and revoking and the reduction of the influence of the political factor, as well as the dismantling of the Section for Investigating Crimes in Justice.
    6. “It is inadmissible that in 2020 we still have heated discussions about vote rigging.”
  8. Post-election fraud scandal continues in Bucharest: Social Democrats ask for elections to be repeated: The scandal related to alleged electoral fraud in the Bucharest local elections continues after the Social Democrats asked for the annulment of the elections on Sunday, September 27. They want new elections and accuse the Save Romania Union (USR) of tampering with the votes. Their allegations are based on videos captured by a surveillance camera in a room at the District 1 Electoral Office, where the bags with the ballots were placed after the elections. Antena 3 news channel, close to the PSD, aired the videos on Wednesday evening and commented that the people in the room with the ballots were from Save Romania Union (USR). The Social Democrats immediately reacted and called for the annulment of the elections, arguing that the videos were proof of election fraud. The calls came from former District 1 mayor Daniel Tudorache, former Bucharest mayor Gabriela Firea, and PSD leader Marcel Ciolacu. Clotilde Armand, the USR-PLUS and PNL candidate for the District 1 mayor position, said on Wednesday that Antena 3’s allegations were fake news, and that the images captured by video surveillance cameras were from the night of the elections when the votes were counted. Clotilde Armand did not have a coherent response, taking to Facebook to dismantle the allegations and changing her story several times, the last version being that those in the video are not from USR, but from the PPU party. USR co-president Dan Barna also said that USR Plus representatives did not touch the bags with ballots and denied the allegations.  Two investigations were opened by the authorities in this case, despite the Gendarmery issuing a press release that the access was guarded. The Electoral Bureau of District 1 also denied any irregularities and reports that no bags have left the room, and the people in the room were allowed to be there. However if a complaint is not resolved by the district electoral bureau, then the complaint can be escalated to the Central Electoral Bureau, the only institution that can rule for a recount or a repeat of elections. The scandal has already overshadowed the results of the local elections on September 27 and marks the start of the electoral campaign for the general elections in December, which will likely be a heated one. The parliamentary elections will decide who will run Romania in the next four years. Meanwhile, In Bucharest’s district 5, the District Electoral Bureau has ruled in favor of recounting the votes, yet head of the Bucharest Electoral Office, prosecutor Adrian Ţîrlea asked the Central Electoral Bureau for a unitary interpretation regarding the possibility of recounting the votes. The Central Electoral Bureau will have to rule not only for Bucharest but also for several other recounting requests filed throughout the country.
  9. Govt. project offers Romanians living abroad free access to digital library: Romanians living outside of the country can access for free over 2,000 digital titles as part of a campaign rolled out by the Culture Ministry in a partnership with Litera Publishing House. The project is meant to encourage reading, help the personal development of its target audience, and improve the language skills of the children enrolled in schools outside of the country, according to a press release of the ministry.
  10. President Klaus Iohannis to attend the European Council meeting in Brussels: President Klaus Iohannis will attend the meeting of the European Council in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, which includes topics such as the European Union’s Single Market, industrial policy and the Union’s digital policy, according to a Presidential Administration release, according to Agerpres. European leaders will also address foreign policy issues, mainly the Union’s relations with China and Turkey. Germany hopes to reach an agreement in the coming weeks on the European budget for 2021-2027 as well as on the € 750 billion recovery plan, a senior German government official told the Council on Wednesday ahead of the European council meeting of October 1st – October 2nd.
  11. Iohannis, at meeting with representatives of Coalition for Romania’s Development: Business Environment – very important partner: President Klaus Iohannis had a meeting on Wednesday with representatives of the Coalition for the Development of Romania (CDR). During the discussions, proposals and directions were formulated regarding the prioritization and acceleration of transport infrastructure projects, directions and measures to support the agriculture and the agri-food industry, as well as the need to develop and implement a National Strategy on Digitalization, which should support the governing quality and the good use of public funds, shows the Presidential Administration. Separately, Microsoft Romania GM said a specialized conference in which she emphasized Romania’s great potential of IT professionals that: “Cybersecurity and resilience are very important to be able to truly enable these large-scale digital transformations. We need to work together to influence policies and regulations, to fuel a primarily cloud economy, a data-driven government. And we must certainly be careful and take advantage of our geopolitical situation”.
  12. Orban, on the closure of restaurants: Prime Minister Ludovic Orban said that in localities where it will be found that the percentage of COVID infections has been exceeded, compared to that set by the authorities, they will decide that, for a while, the activity of restaurants be restricted. The prime minister made this statement upon leaving from the National Conference of the Hospitality Industry.
  13. Senate: Real estate developers will transfer 1% of the profit to finance the advance on mortgages loans for youngsters: Any real estate developer with an annual profit of at least 1 million lei will “transfer” 1% of it to the Solidarity Fund “Housing for Romanian youth”, which will finance the necessary advance on real estate loans for young people without opportunities. The measure is proposed in a legislative initiative drafted by ALDE-PSD group adopted by vote, on Wednesday, by the plenary of the Senate. In order to come into force, the draft must also be adopted by the deputies and promulgated by the head of state.
  14. PM Orban to students: Pandemic imposed restrictions, but we will not allow it to affect access to education: Prime Minister Ludovic Orban has sent a message to students and teachers at the beginning of the new academic year, showing that it begins under the impact of the health crisis, but that the right to learn “is fundamental” and must be respected, “regardless of the difficulties of the moment”, according to Agerpres.

 

Impact on the economy

 

  1. Romanian online real estate platform starts buying apartments: Romanian online real estate platform Casta, part of the Neogen group – controlled by local investor Calin Fusu, has launched a new service that aims to help apartment owners sell their properties faster. Through this service, called InstaBuy, the platform will make offers to buy apartments from interested sellers. The service aims to help apartment owners sell their properties faster, given that the time it takes to conclude a sale has increased because of the CCOVID-19 pandemic.
  2. Romanian banks charge lower interest rates on mortgage, consumer loans: The quarterly IRCC, the benchmark local banks use for indexing their interest rates on mortgage and consumer loans, decreased from 2.41% to 2.17%, Romania’s National Bank (BNR) announced on September 30, Ziarul Financiar reported. The updated index was calculated based on the weighted average interest rate for the money market deals during the second quarter (Q2). Romanians will thus pay lower loan interest rates in the next three months.
  3. S&P trusts RO Govt. can defer, then roll back 40% pension hike: International rating agency S&P said in an ad-hoc bulletin that it trusts the Romanian Government will likely try to delay the 40% pension increase to allow the future majority in the Parliament to roll it back after the December 6 elections. The 40% pension hike passed by lawmakers on September 22 threatens Romania’s investment-grade sovereign rating – which is on the brink of junk region, furthermore with a negative outlook. “Timing is of the essence,” the rating agency says in its comment, explaining that previous decisions by the Romanian Constitutional Court prohibited a reduction of pension levels once they have been paid out. Speaking of timing, S&P’s next scheduled rating publication for Romania is December 4, 2020 – two days before the general elections. Finance Minister Florin Citu showed optimistic on Wednesday that the international rating agency S&P would upgrade to stable from negative its outlook on Romania’s sovereign rating. He also implied that some sectors, worst hit by the crisis, might be helped – while others can afford to pay their dues which will not be further deferred after October 25.
  4. EBRD downgrades forecast on Romania’s economic development in 2020 and 2021: The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has downgraded its estimates regarding the economic development of Romania in 2020 and 2021, as a result of the crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, reads a report published on Thursday by the financial institution, according to Agerpres. According to the most recent forecast of the EBRD, Romania’s economy is expected to eye a drop of 5 per cent this year, compared with a drop of 4 per cent as estimated in May. For 2021, EBRD expects a growth of 3 per cent in Romania’s GDP, compared with 4 per cent as estimated in May.
  5. FDI to GDP ratio in Romania eases slightly to 2.3% of GDP in 2019: The Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows to Romania edged down slightly to EUR 5.17 billion in 2019, from EUR 5.26 bln in 2018, according to the annual FDI report published by Romania’s National Bank (BNR). From a broader perspective, FDI remained robust compared to the EUR 4.5-4.7 bln in 2016-2017.
  6. The unemployment rate in Romania, down to 5,3% in August 2020: The unemployment rate in Romania decreased to 5.3% in August 2020, being 0.1 percentage points lower than the one registered in the previous month, informs on Thursday the National Institute of Statistics (INS), according to Agerpres.
  7. Industrial production prices decreased by 0.7% in August: Industrial production prices (domestic and foreign market) decreased by 0.7% in August compared to the same month of the previous year, and compared to July 2020, they fell by 0.2%, according to data published on Thursday by the National Institute of Statistics (INS), as reported by Agerpres.
  8. The National Bank of Romania  announces that Romania’s international reserves fell to 37.9 billion euros in September, from 41.2 billion euros.
  9. Euro rises and approaches the historical maximum – BNR exchange rate for October 1st: RON 4.8721/EUR 1
  10. Largest industrial natural gas consumer, Azomureș, closes down a section due to supply shortage: The Azomureş chemical plant Tîrgu Mureș, the largest gas consumer in Romania announced that it closed a section this morning, because its gas supplier could not supply gases within parameters. After a year and a half in which import prices were lower than those on the domestic market, starting with the middle of this year the situation reversed, and traders who booked import capacity were forced to pay capacity reservation fees even if they did not use it fully. According to market sources, these capacities are reserved until October, which puts considerable financial pressure on traders with reservations. Because, at the current level, it is advantageous to export gas from Romania, and not to import. All the more so as Romgaz has resumed its production at the normal level, and the storage facilities in Romania are over 90% full.
  11. Wage growth in private companies averaged 6.79% in the first half of the year: Wage growth in private sector companies averaged 6.79% in the first half of the year, but will fall to 4.68% in 2021, according to the PayWell 2020 salary survey.
  12. ASF sanctioned insurance companies Omniasig, Groupama and Grawe with a warning: The Financial Oversight Authority (ASF) announced on Wednesday through a press release that it sanctioned with written warning the companies Omniasig VIG S.A., Groupama Asigurări S.A. and Grawe Romania Insurance S.A for irregularities on observing the procedure for the drawing and payment of damages.
  13. Roche Pharma Romania has a new General Manager: Claudiu Cheleș, currently Patients & Customers Value Head at Roche Romania, will take over the position of Ad-Interim General Manager of Roche Pharma Romania.