Situation of COVID-19 cases in Romania and vaccination campaign
- Close to 2,700 new cases of COVID-19 registered in the last 24 hours: 2,676 new cases of people infected with the novel coronavirus have been reported in Romania in the past 24 hours, out of 30,447 tests, which means the infection rate stands at 8.78%. 111 Romanians infected with SARS-CoV-2 have died in the past day (up from 67 the day before), while 967 patients are in a more serious condition, in intensive care (down from 971 the day before). The national infection rate average is 1.79/1,000, Timis being the only county in the “red area” (with 3.17). Bucharest (1.96) and 8 other counties remain in the “yellow area”, while the rest of the counties are in the “green area”.
- First Moderna vaccine doses to be distributed in Romania on Wednesday: As many as 26,210 doses of the COVID-19 Moderna vaccine will be distributed in Romania on Wednesday to the regional centers nationwide for the immunization with the first dose of persons appointed for vaccination via the appointment scheduling platform, according to the National COVID-19 Vaccination Coordination Committee (CNCAV), as reported by AGERPRES.
- Two more cases of infection with new UK Covid strain detected in Bucharest: Two more cases of infection with the UK coronavirus strain have been reported on Monday, stemming from the already confirmed outbreak at Bucharest School No. 28, the Health Ministry informed on Monday.
- Private medical clinics network “Regina Maria” launches the first study in Romania on the immune response post-vaccination against COVID-19: After conducting a study on the body’s immune response in patients cured of COVID-19, the Health Network is launching a new research project. Regina Maria will test, in a first stage of the study, a sample of 300 employees who have already been vaccinated against COVID-19. The measurement of antibody count will be performed one week after the second dose of vaccine and will be repeated at an interval of 3 and 6 months, respectively, a schedule applied in the process of testing the efficacy of the vaccine in clinical trials.
- EU wants to tighten border restrictions for travelers from outside the EU bloc: The 27 EU governments agreed on Monday to tighten border restrictions for travelers entering the EU bloc, including presenting evidence on the negative test for COVID-19 which has to been performed no later than 72 hours before departure, according to DPA. This requirement will also apply to travelers coming to the EU on journeys considered essential, such as family or business emergencies.
Romania registers just over 8,000 new cases in the last 24 hours: Romanian officials reported 8,062 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, out of 35,467 tests, according to the official daily report released on Friday. Thus, the total number of COVID-19 cases in Romania went up to 500,273. 176 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours. The number of COVID-19 patients treated in intensive care units was 1,275 on Friday – the highest so far. Bucharest recorded 986 new cases of coronavirus infection in the past 24 hours. The county of Cluj saw the second-highest daily increase of 434 new cases, followed by Constanta – 431, Brasov – 355, Timis – 344, Iasi – 340, and Ilfov – 322. The counties with the highest incidence rates are Constanta – 7.04 cases per thousand inhabitants, Ilfov – 7.01, Cluj – 5.74, Sibiu – 5.42, Bucharest – 5.39 and Brasov – 5.19. In Constanta County, which has the highest infection rate, quarantine was extended by 14 days on Friday.
Political and regulatory
- President says COVID-19 vaccination will be voluntary, first vaccines to arrive in Romania early next year: The first batch of about 1 million COVID-19 vaccines will most likely arrive in Romania early next year, president Klaus Iohannis said on Thursday, December 3, after visiting the first vaccination center in Romania, set up in northern Bucharest. He also said that the vaccination is “voluntary, safe, and effective” and that the vaccination campaign “will last at least a few months.” Romania’s defense council CSAT approved the COVID-19 vaccination strategy during an extraordinary meeting on Thursday. The strategy, which was also approved by the government last week, is to be presented in a dedicated press conference later today. President Iohannis said plans for the coming weeks and months include an information campaign for both the general and specialized public, and a dedicated website where people can find additional information. The president also said that the vaccination center he visited on Thursday is a pilot project and that similar centers will be opened across the country. These centers will include a reception area, an area where the patient can talk with the doctor, the vaccination area, and a waiting area after vaccination. “There is an electronic register where all vaccinations will be recorded, an electronic register that will obviously be confidential,” Klaus Iohannis also said. “If all goes as planned, we may end this first vaccination campaign by the summer,” the president added. Doctor Valeriu Gheorghita, the coordinator of the national COVID-19 vaccination campaign, also told local news channel Digi24 that the campaign could end by mid-summer next year, when 60-70% of the population should be immunized against coronavirus infection.
- DefMin Ciuca: Military Hospital in Craiova to be regional anti-COVID-19 vaccination center: The Military Hospital in Craiova will become a regional anti-COVID-19 vaccination center, Defence Minister Nicolae Ciuca said in a message posted on Facebook. He added that he visited, on Thursday, a section of a health unit where there will be established a section for patients infected with the novel coronavirus. In this context, said the Minister, he also had a discussion about the vaccination campaign. “Besides the Cantacuzino Institute, which is the main center where the anti-Covid-19 vaccine is to be stored, the Military Hospital based in Craiova will be a regional vaccination center, with multiple tasks in keeping, storing and even administering the vaccine,” said Nicolae Ciuca.
- AEP president: No impediments in organization of electoral process: President of the Permanent Electoral Authority (AEP) Constantin-Florin Mituletu-Buica says that preparations for Sunday’s ballot unfold normally as planned, under observance of all the rules, and that due to the experience of the previous pandemic-time local elections, there have been no impediments in the organization of the current electoral process, according to AGERPRES. Romanians in the country, who are in quarantine or home isolation because of COVID-19, can vote on Sunday in the parliamentary election with a special ballot box. In the quarantined localities, citizens will be able to travel to exercise their right to vote, Prime minister Ludovic Orban said on Friday. “Citizens will be able to go to exercise their right to vote, freely, without any restrictions and without having to give a declaration that they are going to vote. It is known that it is the day of the vote and it is normal for citizens to travel to the polling stations in order to exercise their right to vote,” the Prime minister said. Friday is the last day of the electoral campaign for the parliamentary elections. The electoral campaign for the parliamentary elections began on November 6 and officially ends on Saturday at 7:00 hrs.
- PM Orban: Romania must join European strategy in railway sector: Romania must join the European strategy in the railway sector, this being for the last 30 years the ‘Cinderella’ of transport modes, said on Friday, Prime Minister Ludovic Orban, present at the signing of a contract to modernize the railway line Bucharest Nord – Jilava – Giurgiu Nord – Giurgiu Nord Borders, according to AGERPRES. “Moreover, Romania is a gateway – entrance and exit to Europe. The modernisation of the railway infrastructure (…) is a zero priority in order to fructify this huge advantage. We intend to use all the financial resources in the coming years to be able to have an accelerated upgrading of the railway, so that we really have a competitive, efficient rail transport that represents an engine of economic development and, at the same time, a cost-effective transport variant for citizens who want to use the iron road,” the Prime Minister asserted.
- Orban: Testing capacity is 54,000 – 55,000 tests: The nominal testing capacity is 54,000 – 55,000 tests and, if there is a demand, testing can be done up to this figure, but there is no demand and “the same untruths that have no connection with reality are constantly spreading,” Prime Minister Ludovic Orban said on Friday, according to AGERPRES. “Pretending not to see that November 30 – St. Andrew’s Day – and December 1 – National Day – were holidays seems abnormal to me. It is known that on days off there is less testing capacity,” said the prime minister at the headquarters of the Ministry of Transport, when cautioned that few COVID-19 tests have been performed in recent days. According to him, the testing capacity recovered immediately and is permanently being adapted to the existing requirements. “If there is a request for additional testing, the testing can be done. There was no request,” the PM explained.
- Former Managing Director of Unifarm, prosecuted for abuse of office in new case: Adrian Eugen Ionel, former Managing Director of National Company Unifarm S.A, is being prosecuted by anti-corruption prosecutors in a new case in which he is accused of abuse of office, after having concluded with a commercial company, which was not approved by the National Agency for Medicines and Medical Devices in Romania for the import/distribution of “three-ply surgical masks”, a public procurement contract aimed at buying 1,500,000 such masks, the National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA) informed in a press release on Friday.
- Ciolacu: Never expected President of Romania to intervene so brutally in election campaign: Chairman of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) Marcel Ciolacu declared on Thursday that it is “unacceptable” for the president of Romania to urge the world to vote for a certain party, according to AGERPRES. In his opinion, the outbursts of President Iohannis are the best barometer that PSD will win the elections.
- PM Orban stresses the importance of December 6 elections and urges citizens to come to vote: The PNL (National Liberal Party) leader, Prime Minister Ludovic Orban, on Thursday, stated that the parliamentary elections represent a turning point and assured that the exercise of the ballot will be done in the safest conditions to protect health. According to the PNL leader, the vote in Sunday’s parliamentary elections represents “an investment in Romania’s chance for development.” A similar message was sent out by PSD leader Marcel Ciolacu.
- Ludovic Orban is reluctant to say whether he will restructure the current cabinet after the elections: PNL President Prime Minister Ludovic Orban said in a TV show on Thursday evening that he wants “a government as slim as possible, with as little number of portfolios as possible”, reasoning that the “scattering” of some fields of activity subordinated to several ministries could lead to dysfunctions in the functioning of the executive apparatus from the administration. Orban said that after reducing the number of portfolios in the government, “simplifications” can be made in public entities. The prime minister however noted on Friday that he was “very satisfied” with the governing team he leads, all of whom are “serious, involved people who understand things and push things forward.” Asked if he will have the same team of ministers, if he remains prime minister after the election, Ludovic Orban said he could not respond to such a question.
- Gov’t to approve establishment of National Cyber Security Directorate at Friday’s meeting: The Government is to approve, on Friday, a draft emergency ordinance on the establishment of the National Cyber Security Directorate, as a public institution, with legal personality, under the coordination of the Prime Minister, financed from own revenues and subsidies granted from the state budget, which will replace the National Cyber Security Incident Response Centre – CERT-RO.
- The Orban government changes the state of alert in the last meeting before the elections: The Orban government changes, in the last meeting before the parliamentary elections, the government decision on the state of the alert. The two main changes concern the reopening of farmers’ markets and the elimination of traffic restrictions on election day, including in quarantined localities.
- USR-PLUS might claim the Justice and Finance portfolios, plus the head of the Chamber of Deputies or of the Senate: USR-PLUS co-president Dacian Cioloș explained, on Thursday evening, in an online Q&A session, what are the alliance’s goals in the negotiations for the future coalition governance. “Discussions will not start with dividing the ministries, but with the governing program, to make sure that we have no convicted in office, no special pensions, no unjustified immunities in Parliament, that we depoliticize health and education, that we digitize public administration, that we stop forestry thefts”, said Dacian Cioloș. In connection with the ministries, he indicated that USR-PLUS has “some objectives: justice, financial, economic, social”. “It depends on the mandate that the people will give us, the more votes we have, the more ministries we will be able to go for,” he added. Dacian Cioloș specified that USR-PLUS wants state secretaries in the ministries where they will not have ministers. Dacian Cioloș added that USR-PLUS also wants the president of the Chamber of Deputies or the president of the Senate position.
- Comment: It is unclear yet what USR will claim at the negotiations for an alliance, but a hint can be found in USR Plus’ candidates competences, which are in the legal, IT, environment, and to a lesser degree in the healthcare field. Although USR is still credited with between 16% and 18% in the latest polls (IRSOP, IMAS, IRES) the leading position (near or slightly above 30%) is disputed by PNL and PSD. Thus it makes sense, that the greater USR’s score, the higher the claims to positions it would have, fact noticeable in the recent attacks against the PNL as the date of December 6 gets closer. However, the two parties are fighting for the same center-right voters and they would need other parties, potentially UDMR and PMP providing that these two meet the electoral ceiling of 5%. Pro Romania credited to exceed this ceiling (7%-9%) is unlikely to side with PNL and therefore more inclined for an opposition with PSD, if no surprises appear in PSD’s score. In parliament, USR and PNL would have some difficulties agreeing over certain projects, which is why they would contest the governing program first and decide on positions later, as the USR-Plus co-president Dacian Ciolos said. To mitigate this they might implement a quid pro quo system in which they support each other’s projects, rather than stall in disputes, yet the issue remains that USR-Plus also has disputes from within and is not as united as the PNL. This further supports the idea that more governing partners are needed. Perhaps the most noticeable aspect of this campaign is the turnaround in the last part of the electoral period for PNL, showing willingness to change faults in the party and back administrative reform, promises which the potential USR-Plus partners will hold them accountable to and push to make them happen.
Impact on the economy
- Ambassador Zuckerman: Exim US intends to support strategic investments in Romania, secure USD 7bln lines of credit: The Ambassador of the United States of America (USA) to Romania, Adrian Zuckerman, announced on Thursday, during a visit to Portile de Fier [ed.n.- Iron Gate Hydroelectric Power Station], the intention of Exim Bank US to support strategic investments in Romania and to ensure lines of credit of about 7 billion US dollars, according to AGERPRES. The intention of Exim US is to support strategic investments in Romania and to provide lines of credit of approximately 7 billion US dollars. Kimberley Reed, president of Exim Bank, will arrive on Monday to discuss the agreement between the Romanian Government and Exim Bank for the financing of energy and infrastructure projects, and will pay a visit to the Cernavoda nuclear power plant, said the Ambassador of the United States of America to Romania, Adrian Zuckerman. On December 3, the US Ambassador has been on a working visit to Portile de Fier, together with the Minister of Economy, Energy and Business Environment, Virgil Popescu.
- Ludovic Orban announced that the Government approves the aid scheme for HORECA: Prime Minister Ludovic Orban announced that the Government approves the aid scheme for HORECA. “We are committed to adopting the state aid scheme for HORECA,” Orban said at the government meeting.
- AmCham outlines US investors’ expectations ahead of general elections in Romania: AmCham Romania has shared with the political parties and their candidates running in the 2020 parliamentary elections its members’ vision on the necessary measures for Romania’s economic recovery and repositioning towards sustainable, mid to long term strategic priorities, as outlined in the new edition of the AmCham Priorities for Romania. Maintaining the investment rating, finalizing public infrastructure projects in various stages of development, identifying a new model of convergence, and public administration reform are among the short-term economic policy priorities recommended by AmCham.
- Romanian content aggregation platform Deepstash gets EUR 3 mln financing: Deepstash, a Romanian startup launched last year with a platform that allows users to aggregate content from various sources (including social media), has received a EUR 3 million financing, Startupcafe.ro reported. Connect Ventures, GapMinder VC, and Cultivate Capital led the funding round.
- Romania’s IT industry association targets 10% share in GDP by 2025: The Romanian software industry association (ANIS) states that the local IT industry’s objectives for Digital Romania in 2025 are for the IT&C sector to reach 10% of GDP, from about 6% currently. The association calls the authorities to further expand the fiscal facilities and open the public sector to digitalization and private projects by favoring interoperable (API first) and cloud-based public infrastructure. In exchange, ANIS plans to create the biggest information technology hub in Central and Eastern Europe by value, News.ro reported.
- Romanian SMEs can apply for investment grants of up to EUR 0.2 mln: The call session for investment grants dedicated to Romanian SMEs started on December 3, at 10:00 AM. Eligible recipients can obtain state financing of between EUR 50,000 and EUR 200,000 for investment projects. The total budget allotted for investment grants amounts to EUR 350 million. Romanian SMEs can apply for investment grants by January 29, 2021, 20:00. The grants will be disbursed by December 31, 2023, according to the Economy Ministry.
- Romanian FinMin Citu says budget revenues were robust in November: Romania recorded higher tax revenues in November this year compared to the same month of last year, finance minister Florin Citu commented on an optimistic note after the October retail sales figures indicated full recovery. Still, he did not mention a specific annual growth rate for tax revenues. “This means that the economy is recovering, and I want to thank entrepreneurs and all Romanians because, in a difficult year, we managed to make things work again together,” minister Citu said several days before the general elections, local Economica.net reported. Minister Citu also mentioned the country update that Romania expects from the international rating agency S&P on December 4 (23:00 local time). He argued that the confidence investors showed at the end of November when the country issued EUR 2.5 billion Eurobonds supports hopes for a “positive” decision of the rating agency – which would mean maintaining the BBB- sovereign rating, even with the negative outlook attached.
- Third-quarter hourly labor cost up 5.68 pct YoY: The hourly cost of labor was 5.68 percent higher in Q3 2020 than in the same quarter of the year before in workday-adjusted terms, and 1.36 percent more compared to the previous quarter, shows data released on Friday by the National Institute of Statistics (INS), according to AGERPRES.
- Over 113,000 farmers, authorized for final payment of advance in 2020 Campaign: The Agency for Payments and Intervention for Agriculture (APIA) started, on December 2, the authorization of final payments, as the difference between the calculated amount and the amount granted in advance for the 2020 application year, the institution announced on Thursday.
Romania and Georgia selected as hosts of the 2023 Under-21 EURO: Romania and Georgia will be the hosts of the 2023 UEFA European Under-21 Championship, the UEFA Executive Committee decided on Thursday, December 3. In Romania, Cluj-Napoca and Bucharest will be the tournament’s host cities in 2023. Meanwhile, in Georgia, the Under-21 EURO matches are planned to be played on stadiums in Batumi, Poti, and Tbilisi. The opening match will take place in Romania, and the final will be held in Georgia