Situation of COVID-19 cases in Romania

  • Romania reports close to 5,000 new cases, at fewer tests conducted on Sunday, over 40% of which returned positive: Romania reported 4,931 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, out of only 11,266 tests, according to the official daily report released on Monday, November 16. This represents a share of positive tests of 43.7%. The total number of coronavirus cases reached 365,212 in Romania. More than 246,600 COVID-19 patients were declared cured so far, while the death toll has risen to 9,075. A total of 149 deaths were reported in the past 24 hours. Bucharest and 23 counties across the country are now in the red scenario, after the 14-day incidence rate went over 3 per thousand inhabitants. The counties with the highest incidence rate are Sibiu – 8.8 per thousand inhabitants, Cluj – 7.37, Timis – 6.85, and Ilfov – 6.83. The number of COVID-19 patients treated in intensive care units was 1,187 on Monday, November 16. In total, 13,467 coronavirus patients are hospitalized. Over the weekend, there have been 9,460 new cases on Saturday (at 37,040 tests) and 7,096 new cases on Sunday (at 21,571 tests). Most new cases in the last 72 hours were registered in Bucharest (3,073; 14% of the total), Constanta (1,134; 5% of the total), Sibiu (1,045; 5%), Ilfov (998; 4%), Brasov (989), Cluj (981), Prahova (970), Timis (956), Bihor (802), Iasi (788), Mures (758) and Arges (710).
  • A new anti-Covid vaccine produced by the American company Moderna would offer 95% protection: A new anti-Covid vaccine is almost 95% effective, according to data published on Monday by the American company Moderna, which spoke of a “great day” “, According to BBC News.
  • The European Medicines Agency is ready to start distributing the Covid-19 vaccine starting in January: the European Medicines Agency (EMA) anticipates giving its approval for a first vaccine against the new coronavirus “by the end of the year”, in view of starting distribution “from January,” its director, Guido Rasi, was quoted as saying by Agerpres.

 

Political and regulatory

 

  • Investigation into Piatra Neamţ hospital fire ongoing: Investigators working on the case of the November 14 fire at the Piatra Neamţ County Hospital, in northeastern Romania, have seized documents meant to help determine the causes of the accident, the medical unit announced. The prosecutors opened an investigation after ten Covid-19 patients admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit died in the fire. Seven other people were severely injured, including a doctor who tried to save some of the patients. The investigation is led by prosecutor Marius Iacob, who also dealt with the case of the 2015 Colectiv club fire in Bucharest. The working group set up at the MAI (Ministry of Interior) level to manage the situation and complete the investigations as soon as possible in the case of the fire at the Piatra Neamt County Hospital will be led by Secretary of State and Chief Quaestor of Police Bogdan Despescu. On Monday, November 16, health minister Nelu Tătaru said 11 intensive care unit beds would be available at the Piatra Neamţ hospital starting Monday evening or Tuesday morning. Asked what measures he would take to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again, the Minister mentioned the re-assessment of the management and “everything that means re-assessment of the treatment capacity of health units, everything that means coordination.” Minister of Health Nelu Tataru has paid a visit to the Mobile Hospital in Letcani on Saturday night to Sunday to check how the medical unit there is prepared to receive the patients from the County Hospital in Piatra Neamt. All intensive care units in Romania will be checked, with a compliance plan to be drafted, PM Ludovic Orban said on Monday after a meeting with the Health Ministry representatives. The PM added that any repairing  or revamping works in the intensive care units will be included in this plan, with expenses to be covered from non-refundable European funds. Various foreign embassies in the country or EU institutions sent messages of condolences after the fire, including the U.S. Embassy and the Russian Embassy. Stella Kyriakidou, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Hungarian President Janos Ader and Israel president Reuven Rivlin were among those offering condolences. Meanwhile, Pope Francis prayed for the Piatra Neamţ victims during Sunday’s Angelus prayer, Vaticannews.va reported. The manager of the Piatra Neamț County Hospital, Lucian Micu, appointed just two and a half weeks ago, announced on Monday that he will resign, following the fire at ICU. PSD head Marcel Ciolacu on Sunday announced the suspension of any electoral campaign action out of respect for the Piatra Neamt tragedy.
  • Alba Iulia and five other localities in Romania’s Alba county placed under quarantine: Alba Iulia and the localities of Sebes, Blaj, Cugir, Abrud, and Ciugud, all located in the county of Alba, will be placed under quarantine starting Tuesday at midnight, according to decisions of the Alba County Committee for Emergency Situations. The measure, which is valid for 14 days, was taken to limit the spread of the new coronavirus, as all these localities have been registered worrying rates of infection. Cluj Napoca however, with an incidence of 9.04 per thousand inhabitants on Monday, would not enter quarantine, the Prefect decided motivating that conditions are not met, having few deaths, an increased hospitalization capacity, and cases from non-residents who do not count for the incidence rate.     
  • Romania and Russia congratulate pro-EU candidate Maia Sandu for victory in Moldova presidential elections: Pro-EU candidate Maia Sandu (48), the leader of the Action and Solidarity Party (PAS), won the presidential elections in Moldova with more than 57% of the votes. She was congratulated for her win by Romania’s president Klaus Iohannis and Russia’s president Vladimir Putin. The country’s diaspora voted overwhelmingly for Sandu, with more than 92% of the votes cast abroad in her favor. She also gathered the most votes in the country’s capital Chișinău, where she won 59.7% of the votes to Dodon’s 40.30%, G4media.ro reported. Sandu, who is to become Morlova’s first woman president, lost the presidential election to Dodon in 2016 after gathering 47.89% of the votes to his 52.11%. Sandu studied at Harvard University and worked as an economist at the World Bank before entering politics. She was a prime minister of Moldova from June to November of 2019 and a minister of education from 2012 to 2015. Romania’s president Klaus Iohannis and PM Ludovic Orban have congratulated Sandu for her win. Klaus Iohannis will make a visit to Moldova after Maia Sandu will officially start her mandate. “Moldova’s citizens have chosen to continue on the European and democratic path, a path of progress. Romania will stand by Moldova in its efforts towards modernization, democratization, and getting closer to the EU,” president Iohannis said in a Twitter post. PM Orban called Sandu’s victory a “historic event for the Republic of Moldova.” “A competent and responsible president who will modernize the country and bring it closer to Romania and the European Union. Romania’s Government will remain a loyal partner for the Republic of Moldova and will support the new president’s initiatives from Bucharest and Brussels,” Orban said in a Facebook post. Deputy Prime Minister Raluca Turcan says Moldova is taking a “big step” toward Europe by electing Maia Sandu as president and that Romania will continue to show its support for the Chisinau authorities.
  • MEP Stefanuta requests Commissioner Kyriakides’ help for Sibiu County – highest COVID-19 infection rate: MEP Nicu Stefanuta has requested, on Monday, the help of the European Commissioner for healthcare and food safety, Stella Kyriakides, to support COVID-19 patients in central Sibiu County, the county with the highest SARS-CoV-2 infection rate in Romania, 8.32 per thousand citizens, according to reports sent on Sunday, by the Strategic Communication Group. Nicu Stefanuta, a MEP from the Save Romania Union (USR) – Party of Liberty, Unity and Solidarity (PLUS), member in the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety of the European Parliament, mentioned, for AGERPRES, that he also wrote several days ago to Health Minister Nelu Tataru, asking the latter to activate the European mechanisms for the transfer of COVID-19 patients. The doctors of the Clinical Emergency County Hospital in Sibiu are requesting an emergency oxygen station, in order to ensure the oxygen necessary to COVID-19 patients.
  • Klaus Iohannis promulgated the law establishing reduced VAT rate of 5% for homes of up to 120 sqm
  • New natural gas networks to be forcibly expanded – draft: A draft law amending the energy law establishes the obligation of the company that has leased, for example, the gas distribution service in a village of a commune, to extend the network to the other villages from the whole commune.

 

Impact on the economy

  • Biggest online retailer in Romania sees 17% higher Black Friday sales: The Black Friday sales reported by online retailers in Romania increased significantly this year compared to 2019, according to the first estimates for November 13 – the day when most of the online shops organized the shopping event. The biggest online retailer in Romania, eMAG, reported Black Friday sales of RON 586 million (EUR 120 million) this year, up by 17% compared to last year. The share of orders paid by card, online, rose to a record level of 54.6%, up from 42.6% in the 2019 edition.
  • CTP takes over 95,000 sqm of logistics spaces in Romania from Australian group: Prague-based CTP, the biggest owner of logistics and industrial spaces in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), has acquired a portfolio of 12 buildings from the Australian group Cromwell Property Group. With a total area of 95,000 sqm, the buildings are located within CTPark Bucharest, one of CTP’s biggest logistics parks in Romania. With this acquisition, the company expands CTPark Bucharest to over 500,000 sqm of rentable space, occupied by over 100 customers. This marks the exit of Cromwell Property Group from the Romanian real estate market.
  • Romanian telecom group Digi sees higher operating results but financial costs keep it in the red: Romanian telecom group Digi Communications (DIGI), the biggest provider of fixed internet and cable TV services on the local market, reported total revenues of EUR 950 million in the first nine months of this year, up by 8.7% compared to the same period of 2019. The growth was supported by a 12% increase in the total number of revenue generating units (RGUs), to 17.7 million (RGUs are services provided to clients, where one client can get one or more services).
  • Biggest financial group in Romania reports profit down by a third in the first nine months: Banca Transilvania (TLV), the biggest financial group in Romania by assets, recorded a net profit of RON 1.056 bln (EUR 218 mln) in the first nine months of this year, 33% lower compared to the same period of 2019. The group’s operating income was down by 3.3% in the same period, to RON 3.26 bln (EUR 672 mln). Meanwhile, the operating expenses went up by almost 35%, to RON 2.05 bln (EUR 422 mln), mainly due to higher risk provisions for loans.
  • Romanian natural gas group Romgaz posts lower profit in Jan-Sep: State-controlled company Romgaz, one of the two major gas producers in Romania, with operations in the power sector as well, posted a net profit of RON 941.9 mln (EUR 200 mln) in the first nine months of the year, 20.5% lower compared to the same period last year. The company’s business decreased by 23%, to RON 2.91 billion (EUR 600 mln). Still, the profitability ratios remained robust.
  • State road company launches auction for 40-km Transylvania motorway segment: Romanian state-owned road infrastructure company CNAIR announced on Friday, November 13, that it launched the tender for the design and construction of another 41 km of the Transylvania motorway.
  • Romanian investor launches healthy food delivery platform: Romanian businessman of Lebanese origin Mohammad Murad, owner of the Phenicia hotel chain among others, will launch his own food delivery platform that will also provide menus specific to several types of medical conditions such as liver and kidney diseases or diabetes. Murad says that he has invested EUR 3 million in the business. The platform will deliver Lebanese, Romanian, Italian, fasting, vegetarian food, and special food for various medical regimes – some menus will not contain salt while others will not contain carbohydrates.
  • Romania’s National Bank urges banks to set up loan loss provisions: Romania’s National Bank (BNR) “sent a strong message to all banks” in the local banking system to identify vulnerable borrowers and make appropriate risk provisions starting with the fourth quarter of this year, to avoid possible massive losses and decapitalization in 2021, announced Florin Georgescu, BNR’s first deputy governor, responsible with banking supervision. Earlier this year, the Government offered local bank debtors a public loan repayment moratorium by the end of the year, while banks designed alternative facilities for customers in trouble. Finance minister Florin Citu said that the Government holds talks with the banks for prolonging the moratorium after December 31, but such an agreement would need the endorsement from the European banking authorities. There is still room for further reduction in Romania’s monetary policy interest rate given the lower-than-expected inflation rate, finance minister Florin Citu said in a press conference on November 14.
  • Foreign direct investments in Romania plunge by 56% in Jan-Sep: The net foreign direct investments (FDI) in Romania plunged by 56% in the first nine months of this year compared to the same period of 2019, to EUR 1.9 billion (just under 1% of GDP). Thus, the FDI covered less than a third of Romania’s current account deficit in the same period (EUR 7.74 bln).
  • Romania’s current account deficit widens by 71% yoy in September: Romania’s current account (CA) deficit widened by nearly 71% year-on-year in September to EUR 1.44 billion, Romania’s National Bank (BNR) reported. In the first eight months of the year, the CA deficit had narrowed by 11.3% to EUR 6.30 bln. For the entire January-September period, the EUR 7.74 bln CA gap (some 3.8% of this year’s projected GDP) maintains a 2.6% annual contraction.
  • Erste revises 2021-2022 forecast for Romania’s economy to reflect slower recovery: Austrian group Erste Bank, which owns Romania’s second-biggest lender BCR, estimates a slower recovery of the Romanian economy. Erste’s analysts have revised the forecast for Romania’s GDP growth in 2021 downwards. Admitting that the economy performed below expectations in Q3, Erste’s analysts maintained the -4.7% forecast for this year while factoring their expectations for a slower recovery in the next year’s projections. Namely, they cut the forecast for next year to 2.7% from 3.9%, while increasing the growth forecast for 2022 from 3.7% to 4.5%.
  • TeraPlast Group to build new EUR 9.8 M production unit in Bistrita Nasaud: TeraPlast Group will build a new factory within TeraPlast Industrial Park in Saratel, Bistrita-Nasaud county. The project for the new production unit is worth EUR 9.8 million. The products to be made in the new facility are destined to the water, gas and irrigation networks.
  • Agroland opens the largest network store within the Penny Center Fundeni project: Agroland, the network stores specialized in selling agricultural products, established in 1997 in Timișoara, inaugurated the first Agroland MEGA unit in Bucharest and the largest store in the network within the Penny Center project in the Fundeni district of Bucharest, a transaction intermediated by the real estate company Cushman & Wakefield Echinox. Penny Center Fundeni is a project of the German group REWE, part of a network of retail parks present in Bucharest, Buzău, Brăila, Târgovişte and Ploieşti.
  • Vodafone Romania reports lower service revenue: Vodafone Romania announces the key performance indicators for the quarter ended September 30th, 2020, as reported today by Vodafone Group Plc. Vodafone Romania continue to deliver good performance despite the challenging context in the quarter ended September 30th, 2020.
  • Fondul Proprietatea releases Q3 2020 financial results: The top performers in the third quarter were the listed companies OMV Petrom and Nuclearelectrica, followed by Bucharest Airports, Salrom and Enel Energie Muntenia. Bottom performers were listed companies Alcom and Romaero, but overall performance for the NAV per share was positive, of 1.7%, the Fund’s report reads among others. Fondul Proprietatea ended Q3 2020 with a profit of 122.2 million lei, compared to 252.9 million lei in the same period of 2019, but posted a nine-month loss of 726.4 million lei in a reverse trend from the similar period of 2019, when it had a profit of 1.936 billion lei, shows a report submitted to the Bucharest Stock Exchange.
  • Last year, Romania spent 0.48% of GDP on research and development: Last year, Romania spent 5.065 billion lei on research and development, the equivalent to 0.48% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to data from the National Institute of Statistics (INS), published on Monday. At the end of 2019, 43,973 employees worked in the research-development activity, 1.7% fewer than in 2018, of whom 20,252 were women, namely 46.1%.
  • Official statistics: Double-digit increase in nine-month construction volume: The volume of construction works over the first nine months of the year was 17.6 percent up YoY, mainly due to capital repair and engineering works, shows data released on Monday by the National Institute of Statistics (INS).
  • Retail turnover, up 6.3 pct in September (as raw series): Romania’s retail trade turnover, except for motor vehicles and motorcycles, in nominal terms, increased in September compared to the previous month, both as raw series, by 6.3% and as series adjusted according to the number of working days and seasonality by 0.1%.
  • Business in market services rendered to enterprises increases by 2.9 pct in first nine months: Business in market services rendered to enterprises increased in the first nine months of this year by 2.9 pct, over the similar period of 2019, shows the data of the National Institute for Statistics (INS), published on Monday.
  • Bucharest’s Floreasca Hospital starts using Romania-made disinfection robot: Floreasca Emergency Hospital in Bucharest has started using an autonomous disinfection hospital made in Romania. The robot, which uses UV rays to sterilize enclosed venues and destroy bacteria and viruses, was developed by Agora Robotics, part of Modulab. It was financed by Kaufland Romania, and donated to the cardiology section of Floreasca Hospital.