Situation of COVID-19 cases in Romania
- Over 7,200 cases confirmed in Romania, 1,217 patients declared cured: 337 new cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Romania in 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases to 7,216, the Strategic Communication Group announced on Wednesday, April 15 (13:00). Of the total number of confirmed patients, 1,217 were declared cured and discharged from the hospital. At the same time, the death toll has risen to 362. By April 15, 74,827 tests were processed nationwide.
- Timisoara Polytechnic University researchers develop device that sterilizes air exhaled by COVID-19 patients: Researchers from the Polytechnic University of Timisoara, in western Romania, have developed the prototype of an air sterilization device that local hospitals could use in the fight against the new coronavirus (COVID-19).
Political and regulatory
- Policemen to help priests share the holy light to people’s houses on Easter night. The action, harshly criticized: Interior minister Marcel Vela has announced on Tuesday night that policemen will help priest distribute the holy light to believers on Easter night following an agreement between the Interior Ministry and the Romanian Patriarchy, for which he had the support of the President and the Prime Minister. However, following political criticism from most parties, President Klaus Iohannis on Wednesday has asked the Government to reconsider the agreement concluded between the Interior Ministry and the Romanian Orthodox Church. The head of state argued that it is not time for relaxation at this point. The topic however remains heated, with PMP, UDMR and USR for example asking for Minister Vela’s resignation.
- Schools in Romania could reopen after May 15, PM says: Schools in Romania could reopen after May 15, Prime Minister Ludovic Orban said, adding that all students will finish the school year this summer. He also urged the teachers to intensify online teaching until schools are opened, and to prepare the exams “with the utmost seriousness.”
- Romania’s labor minister starts counting employees in the public sector: Romania’s labor minister Violeta Alexandru announced an “ambitious project” aimed at counting the people paid from public money. Minister Alexandru announced that a big database of all the employees in Romania would be created, and those paid from public money will be marked as such in that database.
- PMP’s Tomac: I don’t agree with measures sending people to unemployment only to abandon them: The state must stimulate, in times of crisis, policies by which every job will be kept, even if this would mean, some fields “to implicitly adjust salaries,” said the head of the People’s Movement Party (PMP), Eugen Tomac. He added the Government should restart some important sectors of the economy in the context of the suspension of the Stability and Growth Pact, when loans could be taken from both the European and international financial institutions, and also from the domestic banks. According to the PMP leader, Romania should initiate large infrastructure projects in the healthcare field, such as the building of regional hospitals.
- PSD says EU certified two rapid tests for antibodies; Orban says tests are not accurate: The Social Democratic Party (PSD) argues that the European Union certified two rapid tests for antibody and the U.S. just approved one, whereas Prime Minister Ludovic Orban “tells us that rapid tests for antibodies won’t be performed because they are not accurate.” ALDE leader Calin Popescu Tariceanu also accused the low number of tests carried out.
- MEP Ciolos: European funds at Romania’s disposal can relaunch economy and protect jobs: The European Funds put at Romania’s disposal through some important funding and some credit lines with low interest rates can relaunch economy and protect jobs, MEP and leader of the Liberty, Unity, Solidarity Party (PLUS) Dacian Ciolos said on Tuesday.
- LabMin Alexandru: I requested a discussion with Germany’s Labor Minister on working conditions for Romanian workers: Labor and Social Protection Minister Violeta Alexandru requested a discussion with her counterpart in Germany in order to convey the request to pay proper attention to the working condition for the Romanian workers. The Labor Minister underscored that between her and Romania’s Embassy to Germany, namely the labor attaché in Germany, there is a permanent communication during this period, “from morning till evening,” in the context of the latest departures of Romanians to work abroad.
- Gov’t considering partial wage subsidies for rehired furloughed workers: Prime Minister Ludovic Orban said on Tuesday that the government intends to partially subsidize from the unemployment budget wages of people who were put on short-time working and rehired when the pandemic ends and businesses reopen. He added that the government will provide the resources for the payment of the short-time working benefits, including through the national budget revision that will take place this week. Orban mentioned that the cap on state-guaranteed loans for small and medium-sized enterprises will be raised from five to 15 billion lei in the budget revision in order to provide the working capital or the capital needed for investment for as many SMEs as possible. The prime minister said that the economic recovery plan foresees a significant increase in public investment, estimating that at least 200,000 new employees will be needed on the construction market. He also said that agriculture is a field with a great potential, which the government will support. About the financial problems that local administrations may face, Orban said the government will increase the allocation of income tax receipts by 2% for localities and by 1% for counties, while increasing the credit and drawing caps on loans for investment by the local administrations.
- Tariceanu: I will not vote extension of state of emergency, there is no plan to reboot economy: The Chairman of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE), Calin Popescu-Tariceanu, states that he will not vote for the extension of the state of emergency, on grounds that no medical, social and economic measures have been taken. UDMR and USR announced they would vote on Thursday in favor of the decree extending the state of emergency, while PSD will decide today, but party sources quoted by the media are confident that the party would vote in favor. The Legal Commissions of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies approved, on Wednesday, the text of the decree for the extension of the state of emergency by another 30 days on the territory of Romania. In addition, in the draft scheduled for final vote on Thursday in the Parliament’s plenary, a series of obligations for the government were included such as for the presence every 7 days in Parliament to present a report regarding the measures taken, or the control of the authorities’ expenses during the state of emergency by the Court of Accounts.
- Iohannis on post-crisis comeback: Capital infusion, infrastructure projects, sped up digitalization, extensive administration audit required: President Klaus Iohannis said on Tuesday that, upon presenting the decree on extending the state of emergency that with entire economy sectors having been hit by the coronavirus pandemic, the government will have to lay out and implement a package of measures to help the economy get back on track.
- Minister of Agriculture: There has been an extreme drought. Much of the grain production could be compromised. We will give compensations: Agriculture Minister Adrian Oroș announces that in most of the country there has been an extreme drought, the most affected being Dobrogea and Moldova. He says farmers will be compensated and that assessments will now be made. Much of the grain production sown in the fall of 2019 could be compromised following a drought. He says that during the next period, emergency departments teams will go on the ground, where requests are made, to find and assess the damage.
- Minister of Economy: Reliance on China was a mistake and it must end: From this pandemic, the best thing is that we learned is that dependence on China or other states outside Europe was a mistake and this must stop, Minister of Economy, Energy and Business, Virgil Popescu, said on Wednesday on Digi 24. The official emphasized that the Romanian industry was completely unprepared in the healthcare industry, medical devices and equipment segment. The Minister of Economy announced on Tuesday, on his personal Facebook page, that two new automated technological lines for the production of surgical masks were installed at the Techtex factory, so that the current production capacity would increase to 350,000 pieces per day. Popescu also mentioned that three production lines for surgical masks are being installed at Romarm too. Some of the industries in China and other Asian countries will relocate to Europe, and Romania should not lose this train, after the coronavirus pandemic will enter the downhill slope, the Minister of Economy added.
- European Commission presents plan for gradually lifting restrictions and returning to normal: The European Commission will present on Wednesday a strategy to exit the period of isolation imposed for limiting the spread of the new coronavirus, so that EU member states would gradually lift the restrictions imposed and resume their normal activity. The plan will provide guidance and is not mandatory.
Impact on the economy
- Romania’s FinMin confident about quick economic recovery next year: Romania’s economy will experience a sharp V-shaped decline followed by robust recovery next year, finance minister Florin Citu said in an interview for Digi24 channel. He believes that, at the end of 2021, the country’s economy will be at the point where it was two years earlier. The recovery will start perhaps in July-August this year.
- IMF sees 5% GDP contraction and double-digit unemployment in Romania this year: The International Monetary Fund estimates a 5% decline for Romania’s economy this year, followed by a 3.9% growth in 2021, according to the report “World Economic Outlook.” As a result, Romania’s GDP in 2021 will be 1.3% below the level of 2019 before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Globally, this is better than the 5% GDP decline expected by most of the economies over the same two-year period.
- Romanian farmers not happy with Govt.’s ban on grain export: Romania’s wheat and maize crops are four times bigger than the domestic consumption, and local farmers don’t have enough silos to store them. Thus, the Government’s decision to ban grain exports, if maintained over summer and autumn, will generate problems, representatives of local farmers told Mediafax. The Government banned the export of grains and processed grains (including bakery) outside the European Union through a military ordinance. Minister of Agriculture, Adrian Oros explained on Wednesday that the measure to suspend exports of cereals can be changed at any time, depending on the evolution of the situation, including to block or relax the exports and of other commodities. “Certainly, this decision has caused a disturbance for some traders, even for some big farmers, but Romania’s economy, just like Europe, is going through difficult times and at some point decisions have to be made. We have monitored stocks even from the beginning of the crisis. Our main mission here is to ensure the citizens’ food security. (…) I call upon all those who made good money from agriculture, because they have lands leased for not so big royalties, benefit from huge subsidies, and now they must participate in this joint effort with all citizens, with the Government of Romania, in crossing this difficult period”, said the Minister of Agriculture.
- Sandoz donates 100.000 units hydroxychloroquine to Romania: Sandoz, a division of Novartis Group in Romania (Novartis Pharma, Novartis Oncology and Sandoz), has announced today the donation of 100.000 dozes of generic hydroxychloroquine produced by Sandoz to cover the treatment for more than 4.000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, in Romania. The aim of the donation is to enable patients access a potential effective treatment in the fight against COVID-19. The Romanian healthcare authorities will allocate the drug from C.N. UNIFARM S.A. to the hospitals in need. Hydroxychloroquine – a medicine included in the national standard treatment protocol against COVID-19 established by the Romanian Ministry of Health.
- Romanian investment fund extends EUR 9 mln bridge financing to Blue Air: Romanian airline Blue Air, controlled by local investors, has managed to draw a EUR 9 million financing from local investment fund SIF Banat-Crisana. Blue Air is now seeking a EUR 45 mln rescue loan from the Government after the restrictions generated by the coronavirus outbreak have suspended most of the company’s flights.
- Romania’s biggest online retailer enters beverages segment: Romania’s biggest online retailer eMAG has added a new category of products to its offer, namely beverages, local Profit.ro reported. The retailer announced that it would make available for its clients some 1,000 products in the beverages segment by Orthodox Easter (April 18). Until now, eMAG’s marketplace sold beverages only from third party suppliers.
- Foreign companies account for 44% of the added value generated in Romania: The share of the gross added value generated by the foreign-controlled enterprises in the Romanian non-financial sector increased to 44.2% in 2017, from 43.3% in 2016. This value placed Romania fourth in the European Union, after Ireland (62.8%), Hungary (50%), and Slovakia (48.1%), Eurostat data revealed.
- The government might set up a solidarity fund, to which the energy producers would contribute. The money would go towards lowering the population’s bill – SOURCES: The Government is considering these days the possibility of setting up a solidarity fund, to which the electricity producers must contribute, following that the collected money will be redistributed to the consumers, Economica.net has learned from two sources familiar with the situation. The idea is still at an early stage and discussions are ongoing on whether only state-held producers should participate or even private ones. According to the quoted sources the intention would have also been communicated to the Competition Council.
- Romania could face fuel shortage, if the oil price significantly increases: “There is a risk, related to fuels. If this agreement between the Americans, the Saudis and the Russians will reduce the international oil price to over USD 40 per barrel, and if we keep these regulations of capping the maximum price at the pump, we may face a shortage of fuel on the market, given that three of the four big players in the oil products market in generally import. Apart from Petrom, which produces in Romania, (from Romanian oil) all the other three buy crude oil or petroleum products”, said Răzvan Nicolescu, former Minister of Energy, currently a partner at Deloitte consultancy firm, at a webinar organized by EM 360 and Sustainable Romania.
- Dragu (E.ON): Delaying the payment of bills is an unfortunate solution; state to come with liquidity injection to protect businesses: Delaying payment of electricity bills is an unfortunate solution for the energy system, instead the Government should inject liquidity into the system, said E.ON Romania Deputy GM, Anca Dragu, at a specialized conference, on Wednesday.