Fresh News

Wednesday, 31 March

Press briefing by Prime Minister Florin Cîțu, Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Cătălin Drulă and Minister of Health Vlad Voiculescu, at the end of the Cabinet meeting of March 31

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Florin Cîțu: Good afternoon! Last week, in the Cabinet meeting, we approved a set of measures and I said back then that these measures are designed to help us overcome this difficult period, reduce the spread of the coronavirus. I think it is important to explain a bit, I have told you back then, but perhaps, I have not been very clear – how I reached these measures, what procedure we followed. In February, in January, I remember that I kept receiving questions from you, from journalists or the persons I met, regarding the difference or what is happening in Romania compared to what is happening in Europe. In Europe, we saw increasingly restrictive measures, and Romania remained with relaxed measures. And as each time, I told you that I looked at several indicators. But they were the indicators we all looked at the number of positive cases confirmed every day, and I also looked at other indicators, number of persons admitted at ICU, number of persons calling the emergency services about the coronavirus, number of daily deaths. I said then that no measure was justified at that moment. Romania has a good strategy. Unfortunately, starting late February, the number of COVID cases started to slightly increase, as well as the number of persons confirmed positive daily, the number of persons admitted to the ICU, started to grow, as well as the persons who died because of coronavirus, the number of 112 calls about coronavirus.

Considering all these indicators, I made the decision to have consultations with the prefects of all counties, the Association of Municipalities and Towns, the Association of County Councils, to find solutions for the next period. I wanted first to have a discussion with these people as they are local leaders, people enjoying the highest confidence, persons that people trust. I told them from the very first moment, as I have told them for one year: we do not want to close the economy, we wanted to find solutions, solutions for each locality. I came up with this variant, together, I discussed with these people, about having solutions about to be implemented, measures to appear when there is a certain incidence, for instance, there is a way of calculating it. I wanted a unitary solution for all Romania, for things to be applied for each locality, as each locality has its characteristics, this was the first objective of discussions.

The second objective of the discussions was to make sure that together with religious denominations, we find a solution regarding the Easter celebration this year. You know very well that we had this discussion, and we found a solution this year too, with the measures we will implement, which should be observed, we can celebrate the Catholic and Orthodox Easter or the Passover. Therefore, we found solutions for all these.

In the third meeting I have had, we all look at data, but I wanted to have the meeting and an honest discussion with the specialists. I also met with epidemiologists, with ICU specialists, I had a meeting at the Internal Affairs Ministry, exactly on the current situation, I wanted to understand what is happening, the differences compared to the other waves. For instance, we had more than 6,000 cases, in December, when the situation was difficult, we had 4,000 cases. Did we so easily reach 1,400 cases? I found out some things which are different compared to what happened last year in Romania. First of all, that is most worrisome, the persons who reach the ICU, are in a much more difficult situation, and more serious than last year. The fact that we can test ourselves home, we have these tests, and we are staying home, it is true and when they see that they tested positive, many persons do not take their medication, they do not call the family doctor, and they reach in a much more serious situation in intensive care. That is a big difference to what we had last year. We should listen very much to what doctors advise us, as the situation in the medical system, the pressure on the medical system specialists is very big. It is pointless now to enter discussions about why we had only 1,400 beds in Romania, 1,500. We will have 1,600. I asked 1,600, so, there will be 1,600. It is a healthcare system that was built so in the last 30 years and which we cannot change either in 2-3 months or in one year. We allocate additional resources – today, we allocated again and the Health Minister will explain to you where, but you cannot change things overnight. This is why these measures are necessary, and I asked solutions from specialists to see how we can slow down the virus spread, a period that can allow us to speed up the vaccination campaign. We all know that the only solution to get out of the pandemic is vaccination. No other measure helps us stem the pandemic. We are aware of it. All we are doing is to slow down the spread of the disease, to be able to vaccinate ourselves. We can get rid of the pandemic through vaccination. There were a lot of talks, it is true. Specialists came up with tougher measures. We came up with a variant and I said then too, I am telling it right now: I made a decision because we needed to consider also that Romania and Romanian citizens are for one year in this difficult situation and I understand that we are all reluctant to new measures we believe to come against our freedoms. But there are measures which help us – help us in the short term, now, this month, next month, we can speed up the vaccination campaign. You will see later that things will change.

I wanted you to know all these as it has not been an easy decision. We can discuss the decision. In Bucharest, so far, we discuss only a day in which these measures have been enforced – only on Sunday. This week, the incidence rate is below 7.5, only during the weekend, these measures will be applied again, not during the week.

At the same time, I want to remind you that last year’s rules are still in place, rules whereby we can delay the work schedule, therefore, people can reach job place at different hours – it was a measure we approved last year to avoid crowded transport, teleworking is in place, for the private and the public sector. Last year, the Finance Ministry operated with 30 percent of personnel for a long time and it operated well. All civil servants and Ministers should use telework for the respective Ministries and where possible, in the private sector, we should use telework in this period. All these measures are in place.

I repeat, it was a decision I have taken considering all these elements and the fact that what we have had to date, does not stop the spread of the coronavirus. Romania has today over 6,000 cases daily, in December, we had 4,000 cases. It was clear that we had to take measures, we had to come up with extra measures. We came up with extra measures which are today among the most relaxed in the EU, in fact, not among the most relaxed, but the most relaxed. Romania still keeps the most relaxed measures in the EU, today, if we have a big picture of them. Beyond these measures and rules, I came up with measures that support the economic environment. I am very much aware, and I am backing the idea that I do not want us to close the economy. We need healthy people in order to have a strong economy, but we also need a strong economy to have healthy people. Therefore, things go hand in hand. We came up with those measures whereby we prolonged a set of incentives in 2022 for the HoReCa sector, and the other economic sectors, measures which were operational last year too and will be this year as well.

I want to tell you that the preliminary figures for March clearly show an increase in budget revenues of more than 10% and a lower budget deficit than last year, in the same month. The economy works, people do their job, the measures we have taken, bear results. We just have to be more patient in March and April. If we follow the measures in these two months and we will accelerate the vaccination campaign, you will see that, as it was last year and despite all the criticism, I said that we will have an economy that will recover and it has recovered, we had the highest economic growth, we will also have jobs and resources to cover all the needs we will have this year. Here I wanted to come and explain a little these measures, I think they were not very well explained, I will take a question from each journalist. Thank you.

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