Romania, 9 months since its first coronavirus case
Nine months after the first coronavirus infection was reported in the country, during which hundreds of thousands of other cases have been confirmed, the daily number of Sars-CoV-2-related deaths remains high, and so does the number of patients in intensive care.
Experts warn that although the daily number of new cases has been on a slight decrease since the beginning of this week compared to last week, this is not enough to be optimistic. They believe that only after 14 days with a positive trend can the situation be assumed to be stable.
Authorities introduced local lockdowns in areas with high infection rates. The results are already evident, and the rate is dropping. The restrictions introduced nation-wide, such as the compulsory face covering both indoors and outdoors, nighttime curfews and the switch to online classes in schools have also played a part.
President Klaus Iohannis said Romania will not go under full lockdown after the general election due on December 6. However, this is not the time for relaxation, he said, and urged citizens to continue to observe the safety measures and to spend the winter holidays with the members of their own households.
The president also voiced hopes that as soon as conclusive data is published, Romanians will be less skeptical with respect to a vaccine. According to a poll run by the Avangarde Social and Behavioural Studies Group, only 30% of the Romanians would get the coronavirus vaccine as soon as one is available in the country.
Meanwhile, Romanian authorities are presenting the anti-COVID vaccination strategy, which is seen as a matter of national security. The strategy will be submitted for endorsement by the Supreme Defence Council next week. Healthcare and other key sector personnel and high-risk social categories will be the priority groups to receive the vaccine.
The National Defence Ministry will play a very important role in supporting inter-institutional efforts during the anti-COVID vaccination campaign, providing the logistic means for this national campaign. The distribution strategy also takes into account the specific transport and storage requirements for each vaccine.
The government approved the 3rd budget adjustment this year
The Romanian Government Monday adopted the 3rd and last budget adjustment this year, one that takes the budget deficit to roughly 19.5 billion euros. Unlike earlier predictions, the budget deficit will reach 9.1% of GDP by year end, and the economy will shrink by 4.2%.
PM Ludovic Orban said the adjustment was required in order to cover the expenditure incurred with the COVID-19 pandemic, with the payment of increased pension benefits and balancing local budgets. He explained that new challenges and expenses had to be handled, as the pandemic and a number of recent laws have increased the pressure on the state budget.
Additional funds will be earmarked to the Labour Ministry for pension, furlough and flexible working time payments. The Health Ministry will also get more money for the anti-COVID efforts, including bonuses for ambulance staff, who had not been included in the original regulation providing bonuses to healthcare staff fighting the pandemic.
The finance minister Florin Cîţu announced an increase in Romania’s contribution to the EU financial effort to produce a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2. He explained that this budget adjustment also ensures that public investment projects worth around 11 million euros will be carried on. Public education and agriculture have also received additional funds. The Agriculture Ministry will therefore be able to pay compensations to the farmers affected by this year’s drought. On the other hand, budget cuts were operated, affecting the Finance Ministry and the Interior Ministry, the Presidential Administration and the Chamber of Deputies.
Bucharest presents National Recovery and Resilience Plan
The Government of Romania Thursday night presented the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, which will use EU funding to help the Romanian economy overcome the crisis generated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan is designed to ensure the accelerated development of the country in the coming 4 years, and the EU money will be spent on new hospitals, hundreds of kilometres of motorway, school infrastructure and the digitization of public administration.
Under the plan, over 30 billion euros will be invested in the most important sectors of the Romanian society. Of the total, non-reimbursable grants amount to nearly 14 billion euro, and loans at favourable interest rates contracted by the European Commission on behalf of the member states account for the balance.
The plan has been subject to public debate as of Thursday, with civil society invited to make suggestions, to be reviewed by the Government. After that, the plan will be sent to Brussels. Several NGOs working in the education, healthcare and social fields have already voiced their intention to contribute to the document, which, they say, must include first and foremost support measures for vulnerable categories and pay special attention to underprivileged youth and children, helping them to complete their education. (translated by: A.M. Popescu)