Situation of COVID-19 cases in Romania
- Romania surpasses 14,100 coronavirus cases, almost 5,800 patients declared cured: A total of 14,107 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed by tests in Romania by May 6, according to the daily official report released on Wednesday, at 13:00. 270 patients tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 24 hours. Meanwhile, the number of patients declared cured also increased to 5,788 (up from 5,454 reported on May 5), the same report said. The death toll has also risen to 858. By May 6, more than 217,000 tests were processed nationwide.
- Romanian official suggests number of COVID-19 victims may be inflated: Not all the reported COVID-19 victims in Romania died from pneumonia induced by the coronavirus, according to Horatiu Moldovan, a state secretary within the Romanian Ministry of Health. Many of them were already in serious condition due to the associated diseases. “Not all patients reported [as victims of the pandemic] died from COVID-19 pneumonia,” doctor Horatiu Moldovan said, according to local Mediafax.
- Twelve people cured of COVID-19 have so far donated plasma to Bucharest Blood Transfusion Center: Twelve people who recovered from COVID-19 and developed antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 have so far donated plasma to the Bucharest Blood Transfusion Center.
- Romania recalls face masks purchased from China for local hospitals: Romania has decided to recall a batch of masks produced in China and purchased for local hospitals, following alerts at European and national levels.
Political and regulatory
- PM Orban about opening malls, parks, lifting hunting restrictions: The shops inside the malls that have external entrances will be opened after the state of emergency is lifted, Prime Minister Ludovic Orban announced on Wednesday. As for the decisions to close the parks, Orban said they were taken by the local emergency committees. Fishing and hunting will also be among the allowed activities after May 15. The prime minister stated, once again, that the restaurants will remain closed after May 15. “We have meetings today with the HORECA sector (…) and today I will listen to the points of views of HORECA representatives. In this case, I clearly explained that the epidemiological risk analysis showed that restaurants, especially those in closed spaces, are among the areas with the highest epidemiological risk. Because of this, they will not reopen after May 15. Hotels, upon respecting certain rules, will be open after May 15. And of course, little by little, upon the resumption of freedom of movement and the establishment of motives to travel outside the locality, there will be an increase in demand for accommodations in hotels, motels, guesthouses, ” said the prime minister. Previously, on Tuesday, both the PM and President Iohannis spoke about an economic relaunch plan.
- Romania sends medical equipment to Moldova: Romania sent 20 trucks with medical equipment to the neighboring Republic of Moldova, to support the country’s fight against the new coronavirus (COVID-19). Prime minister Ludovic Orban was present in the square when the humanitarian convoy left for Moldova, alongside other state officials.
- US ambassador praises ECHR’s ruling in favor of RO’s former anticorruption chief, president says there must be consequences: The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on May 5 that Romania violated the rights of the former anticorruption directorate (DNA) chief prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi when dismissing her before the end of her mandate, and this has triggered reactions from top Romanian officials, including the president and the prime minister, as well as the US ambassador to Bucharest and former justice minister Tudorel Toader. President Iohannis said that the Human Rights Court’s decision “shows us that this institution needs to be reformed at the constitutional level.” Meanwhile, Adrian Zuckerman, the US ambassador to Bucharest, said that the ECHR decision “is an admonition against political interference in judicial matters to avoid criminal prosecution.” PSD, who was the ruling party at the time of Kovesi’s dismissal in 2018, also reacted to ECHR’s ruling. PSD’s spokesman Lucian Romascanu said on Tuesday that decisions of the European Court of Human Rights could not be commented on. Romascanu claimed that ECHR’s ruling sanctions a procedure that has to do with rights and liberties, and PSD “bears no blame” in this case. European prosecutor-in-chief Laura Codruta Kovesi has stated on Tuesday that the ECHR ruling “represents a victory of all those who have supported justice in recent years.” Kovesi stressed that the ruling should not remain without effect, adding that the Constitutional Court of Romania (CCR) should rule “on principles” and not regarding a person. The interpretation of the Constitution regarding the Justice Ministry’s authority over prosecutors cannot prejudice the principle of their independence, the Prosecutors’ Section of the Superior Council of Magistracy (CSM) also said on Tuesday. Prosecutor General Gabriela Scutea believes that the ECHR decision in Kovesi’s case creates the prerequisites for rethinking the procedures under which the prosecutors in management offices are being dismissed. The Justice Ministry announced on Tuesday that it will propose to the government stripping former Justice Minister Tudorel Toader of Venice Commission membership following the implications of ECHR’s judgement against Romania. Meanwhile, CCR head Valer Dorneanu said on Tuesday that in ECHR’s ruling “there is no criticism of the Constitutional Court” and that the ruling should be read objectively.
- PSD chairman Marcel Ciolacu wants to ban bills of territorial autonomy: The Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Social-Democrat Marcel Ciolacu, announced on Wednesday the submission, together with the Acting President of the Senate, Soc-Dem Robert Cazanciuc, of two draft decisions to amend the regulations of the Chamber and the Senate, respectively, according to which bills affecting the national, independent, unitary and indivisible character of the Romanian state and the integrity of the Romanian territory will not be taken into account for the debate. Ciolacu made this point at the debate of the UDMR (Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania) draft amending the Administrative Code. Meanwhile, the Chamber of Deputies also rejected today the UDMR bill that forced local authorities to ensure the use of the Hungarian language in the administration.
- Simple motion by PSD in Chamber of Deputies against Finance minister: The Social Democratic Party (PSD) has lodged on Wednesday in the plenary sitting of the Chamber of Deputies a simple motion against Public Finance Minister Florin Citu.
- Labour Minister: Support for returning to work could be 35 pct to 45 pct of gross wage cost value: The support for returning to activity could be 35 pct to 45 pct of the gross value of the wage cost, being at first of the fixed type and then reduced, as the company’s activity is resumed, Minister of Labour and Social Protection Violeta Alexandru told Tuesday evening national television broadcaster TVR1. She noted that support may be granted for three months, with the possibility of extension, but to a small amount, as the company’s activity is resumed. The Minister of Labour has made it clear that the support will be calculated at the gross value of the wage.
- Minister of Transport Bode: Europe needs investment plan in cyber security more than ever: Europe needs an investment plan in cybersecurity now more than ever, to be adjusted to the challenges generated by the novel coronavirus crisis, Minister of transport, Infrastructure and Communications Lucian Bode, who participated in the informal meeting of the ministers of telecommunications, through video conferencing, said on Tuesday. EU ministers focused on two major topics, namely the use of mobile applications and anonymity mobility data in combating Covid-19 crisis and the importance of solutions and investments for the development of new digital infrastructures.
- President Iohannis to participate in high-level meeting EU-Western Balkans through video conferencing: President Klaus Iohannis is going to participate on Wednesday in a high-level meeting of the EU and the Western Balkans, through video conferencing. According to the agenda of the head of state, the meeting will take place at 5.30 pm.
- Political leader Tokes files criminal complaint against President Iohannis: The Hungarian National Council of Transylvania (CNMT), through its national leader Laszlo Tokes, and the Szekler National Council, through its national leader Balazs Izsak, have filed a criminal complaint against President Klaus Iohannis with the Supreme Court of Justice and Cassation accusing him of incitement to ethnic hatred and negative discrimination. The diplomatic row however continue in this case, with Hungarian PM Viktor Orban recently posting a photo with the ‘Greater Hungary’ map, which also included Transylvania.
- Measure taken for all farmers: During the state of emergency as well as for a period of 6 months after its cessation, the water used for irrigation can be used freely, without paying the specific contribution for water management, stipulates a draft law adopted by the Parliament, after the final vote of the Chamber of Deputies.
- PSD / Zamfir draft on capping loan interests, adopted by Parliament: The bill, initiated by PSD and Senator Daniel Zamfir, which imposes a strict limit on consumer loans, was adopted by Parliament. Banks and non-bank financial institutions could be required to grant mortgages with an effective annual interest rate (DAE) of only 4%. Banks have commissioned an impact study showing that capping interest rates would reduce the banking system’s revenue and could affect financial stability, while people’s access to credits would be lower than at present. Last week, the Parliament also adopted another PSD project targeting banks: an exchange rate fluctuation higher than 50% will automatically be considered unforeseen and debtors will be able to adjust contracts or use ‘give into pay’. PSD also imposed recently the amendment of GEO 37/2020 on postponing credit installments. In the form adopted by the Parliament, debtors are not required to present a justification for suspending the payment of loans and will no longer pay the accumulated accrued interest, which could lead to losses of several billions of lei for the banking sector.
- Parliament exempts family medicine buildings from tax: The Parliament adopted on Wednesday a draft amendment to the Fiscal Code, according to which buildings in which family physician practices operate are exempted from paying property tax.
- Parliament has passed a law allowing parents to take days off until the end of the school year: Parents can take days off to supervise children up to 12 years old and in the period immediately following the end of the state of emergency, until the end of the school year, the deputies decided on Wednesday, with unanimous votes.
Impact on the economy
- EC: Romania’s economy to decline by 6% in 2020, but it will recover in 2021: Romania’s economy will decline by 6% this year following the coronavirus pandemic and after the lockdown measures, according to the forecast on Romania released by the European Commission. The EC also says that Romania’s GDP will regain its growth in 2021.
- Romanian state forecasting body to revise downwards its 2020 GDP projection: Romania’s National Strategy and Prognosis Commission (CNSP) estimates that the local economy could contract by 4% this year. This would require that the economic activity restarts in July-August, CNSP president Nicolae Cristian Stanica told Adevarul daily in an interview. CNSP’s latest forecast issued in April envisages a milder GDP decline of only -1.9%.
- Romania’s Govt. is looking to borrow EUR 1.2 bln from the population: Romania’s Finance Ministry plans to attract some RON 6 billion (EUR 1.2 bln) from the population as it has to finance a considerable budget deficit this year. The Treasury is currently preparing to resume the mechanism used in 2015 and 2016 for issuing government securities through the banking system. The papers will then trade on the Bucharest Stock Exchange.
- ArcelorMittal resumes operations at its Romanian unit: The steel plant operated by ArcelorMittal group at Hunedoara in Romania resumed its production activity on May 3, observing the protection norms of the employees to prevent the spreading of the new coronavirus, Economica.net reported.
- Turnover of retail trade up 9.4pct in Q1: The volume of turnover for retail trade (excluding trade in motor vehicles and motorcycles) increased in the first three months of this year, compared to the same period last year, both as gross series and as series adjusted to the number of working days and seasonality by 9.4pct and 7.5pct, respectively, informs the National Institute of Statistics (INS).
- The largest Italian bank, which also has operations in Romania, losses above expectations: UniCredit, the largest Italian bank, reported losses of 2.71 billion euros in the first quarter, after it decided to depreciate certain receivables in order to takes into account the foreseeable impact caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Reuters informed on Wednesday.
- State wants to increase 4-fold the duration of state aid worth over a quarter of a billion euros to save the Oltenia Energy Complex: The Plenum of the Chamber of Deputies discussed today the amendment of the Emergency Ordinance issued in February based on which the Government granted the Oltenia Energy Complex, controlled by the Ministry of Economy, a state rescue aid consisting of a loan of over 251 million euros. The change is intended to increase the repayment period of the loan from 6 months to 2 years. The aim is to give EC Oltenia more time to draw up its plan to restructure and reduce its carbon footprint, as there is a risk that the coal-fired energy producer will go into insolvency if the plan is rejected by the EU Commission.