Fresh News

Monday, 05 April

Press conference by Prime Minister Florin Cîţu

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Florin Cîţu: Good afternoon. "Christ is risen" to all who celebrate Holy Easter. Today, I want to present to you several data of interest for Romanians. It is very important to understand this period we are going through, the measures we have taken, but especially I think it is very important to understand what we intend to do, and today, I will explain to you some of the measures I will take to make sure we are heading to the right direction over the next period. I structured today’s presentation this way: I will talk a little at the beginning about the vaccination campaign, a little about the current epidemiological situation, I requested from the moment I made the decision, an analysis from supermarkets regarding people’s movement, I am interested in every hour, I wanted an analysis taking into account the context as well, as we are during Easter, and we know very well that during holidays, all shops are overcrowded. This is why conducting this analysis is lasting more, but we will have this analysis, to understand a bit the implications of the measures we have taken lately. Today, I will announce the establishment of an interministerial committee, through Prime Minister’s decision, under the Prime Minister’s coordination, that would ensure Romania’s return to normality from June 1.

 We will start, that was the first milestone for us to think of the return to normality, I will explain what I refer to. First of all, regarding the vaccination campaign, I said last week too, there are two very important months for us, April and May. In these two months, we will have 8.3 million doses of vaccine entering Romania and they are very important, as, by the end of the month, May would mean in the most pessimistic scenario, to have almost five million vaccinated people, and in the most optimistic one, 6.3 million vaccinated people. Five million vaccinated people is an important figure for us, as they represent almost 35 percent of the adult population who should be vaccinated, and it is high time, at the end of May, to talk about the economic recovery. This is why it is very important that all – I call on all politicians, the ruling coalition, the elected mayors, the local councillors, presidents of county councils, they should all go and endorse the campaign, present the vaccination campaign, for Romanians to have updated information regarding the vaccination campaign.

Furthermore, it is necessary, I said it at the meeting with the religious denominations, and I was given assurances, and I wanted to make it public here, the Church’s involvement in this vaccination campaign is needed, especially in rural areas. All Romanians in rural areas need to have this information available, to receive the vaccine. I made sure that we have the necessary vaccine doses, but as things are today, we will have the necessary doses to vaccinate 10 million Romanians by the end of July. Our pace is faster than scheduled, but it is important for everybody to desire to get vaccinated. We have first to schedule a vaccination appointment on the platform, we will be able to talk about 10 million vaccinated persons. We have the doses, they are already appointments, and we can speak about 10 million vaccinated persons by the end of July, which represent 70 percent of the adult population and then we can clearly speak about a full re-opening of the economy. Therefore, we did our best, we made progress, we brought closer these data. In February, we were talking about the end of September, we have now the doses scheduled for the end of July, but we need to schedule a vaccination appointment, we need to get vaccinated. I will detail a bit later about the vaccination campaign.

As things are evolving, we are heading in the right direction. I talked to CNCAV today, in mid-April, we can vaccinate 100,000 persons per day. This is why we need everybody’s involvement in this vaccination campaign. Unfortunately, 767,883 persons are on the waiting list of the vaccination platform. 442,000 persons of them have been notified, and 64 percent of them, 282,000 have been scheduled. Therefore, we need to register on the platform, in order to receive the vaccine. Vaccination is the only solution to get through this period, to return to normality, and we wanted to make sure that we will have the necessary vaccine doses.

The second thing, the epidemiological situation. And here things have stabilized. I took some measures, after consulting with the mayors, with the presidents of the county councils, with the religious denominations - and you saw that it is possible to celebrate Easter during this period as well. We have already had examples of two religious denominations that managed to do this. I'm sure it will remain so in the next period. I took these measures after discussing with several decision-makers and it is clear that we already have results, in the sense that I look, for example, at the daily evolution of cases and if I look at a moving average, we have a  plateau which lasts for almost a week.

Likewise, the same, if I look at the daily evolution of the percentages of confirmed cases; in Bucharest, we have again a stabilization, even a decrease in recent days; very important Ilfov – there, a plateau has been reached; in Timişoara, there is a decrease in positive cases- so, a decrease in Timiş County, the measures were effective there as well. And in terms of the cumulative incidence of cases at the county level for 14 days per thousand inhabitants, Bucharest reached a maximum a few days ago and since then, the number of positive cases has been slightly decreasing.

I tell you these things to keep asking you to be patient. The measures we have taken work, generate results and, as you can see, we look at the data every day. We have these results, which clearly show that the epidemiological situation has reached a plateau, we expect an improvement, but the situation cannot improve without further keeping the measures we have now.

At the same time, we are accelerating the vaccination campaign. I said from the first moment that this is the only way we can solve the situation. And I'm glad that you had that press conference at the Ministry of Health yesterday because I had those discussions with the doctors before making the decision. The situation in hospitals has been, is and remains a pressure on the health system at the moment. We can only help by following the measures in place and by vaccination.

And, the last point I want to present today is this inter-ministerial committee. It is very good that it is needed and I kept saying from the beginning that we need to show the Romanians the moment when we plan to return to normality. June 1 is the first step I see. I repeat, it does not mean a one hundred percent opening, but it is the first step and it requires preparations. That is why we have this inter-ministerial committee in which all ministries are involved because the whole economy must be involved and we must see how it evolves after June 1st.

Tomorrow, I will have a meeting with the HORA Association, to see what solutions we find, but everything depends on how the vaccination campaign works. If we want to return to normal and we have set this target for June 1 - because we can vaccinate at least 5,000,000 people by then - we must get vaccinated. It is a necessary condition to be able to move on. We need to have this number of people vaccinated. No other measure helps us reopen the economy. The only solution is the vaccination campaign, to have a successful vaccination campaign. That's why I told you from the first moment, the months of April and May are still important. We have 8,000,000 doses of vaccine, we need to benefit from this.

This inter-ministerial committee will include all ministries. I am thinking of including them as guests, not as members, the associations, and the employers; we will have discussions with them. We have time to prepare for the reopening. I made it clear that when you schedule when you have discussions before, there are good results. It has been seen with the feast of Easter so far, it is possible. You have seen that even on weekends we no longer have crowds on the slopes or in clubs, things are solved when scheduled.

Be confident that we will get through this period. It is the same message that President Klaus Iohannis is sending, I am sending it as prime minister, the whole Cabinet is sending it: vaccination is the only solution.

Thank you!

Reporter: Good afternoon! Mr Prime Minister, from June 1, what relaxation measures can we expect?

Florin Cîțu: More precisely, we will see after this committee meets, but I hope to be as many relaxation measures as possible. I am confident. As I have said, the scenario with 5 million vaccinated is a pessimistic –realistic scenario. They can be 6.3 million vaccinated persons. But it very much depends on the discussions with the respective industries. The summer season starts, I would like us to have a better vacation and safer than last year, and we will make sure through these measures we will take and I am sure that the tourism industry will especially comply with these measures this year.

Reporter: Will the green certificate we are talking about at the European level will be applied domestically in Romania too?

Florin Cîțu: No, no way. The green certificate will not be applied in Romania. Romanians will go on holidays without...This is why we have this inter-ministerial committee to make sure there are rules we will observe, but without the green certificate.

Reporter: I wanted to ask you about the saliva-based tests, as we know the Education Minister was talking about the saliva-based tests which would be used in schools but the Health Minister says that they are not included in the INSP methodology, and this test is not so conclusive. What is your opinion?

Florin Cîțu: I proposed the return to school after that test is performed. The non –invasive tests were my proposal. I made that proposal after I discussed it with several specialists who very clearly told me that there is no difference. The issue is that these tests are not yet included in the INSP methodology, and I think it depends on INSP to include them in the methodology. They are used everywhere in the world.

Reporter: I have seen lately enough ample protests. Protesters asked somehow the lifting of restrictions. Have these protests underpinned your decision to start relaxing somehow the measures and how do you see these protests? A message for protesters.

Florin Cîțu: No way. We do not relax measures. I said we prepare the return to normality as of June 1. How that normality will look like, when we have 10 million, 15 million vaccinated persons, we will see then. I want us to take this decision as we did with the religious denominations and you could see that this could be done. We will make a decision for the rest of the economy. As data say, the measures we have taken lately, had a positive impact on stemming the spread of the virus in Romania.

Reporter: And a message for protesters?

Florin Cîţu: To comply with the legislation in force.

Reporter: What is the immunization rate now, at the national level and if in the future or have you already started to take into account the natural immunization rate of those who have already contracted the disease, in view of the new measures?

Florin Cîţu: It is calculated every time. Those who have had the disease know very well, and we take them into account, they have to wait a while before they can be vaccinated. But we are following these milestones: five million vaccinated means 35% of the population, as we have seen in other countries, those measures have gradually been lifted and I think we are best going 35, 70 and then 100% immunized population.

Reporter: Mr Prime Minister, how long can we see the pilot programs currently taking place in Western Europe? Are they talking about concerts based on the vaccination certificate, PCR tests or quick tests at the entrance to this event?

Florin Cîţu: You are talking about a single pilot program in Western Europe.

Reporter: The United Kingdom announced today that it will carry out several programs.

Florin Cîţu: I have just given you a date, June 1st until which we will have preparations, and after that date, we can discuss several things. We are in a difficult period. April and May are months in which we should get vaccinated, but at the same time, we should maintain a stable situation in healthcare. June 1st is that milestone for us, in which we think of coming up with certain measures that would lead us to normality.

Reporter: You said earlier that the green certificate will not be applied domestically, in Romania, stating that we can travel. Can there be a set of criteria whereby if you have a vaccine, negative COVID test, you can attend private events?  For instance: festivals, weddings, football matches, etc. Is the private sector likely to introduce such conditions with the Government’s approval?

Florin Cîţu: The inter-ministerial committee is tasked with preparing all these rules for a return to normality, after this period of vaccination, and we will see what the rules are. We will agree on them with economic operators and then we will comply with them.

Reporter; Therefore, you do not rule them out considering that Adina Valean said that it can be introduced in each country.

Florin Cîţu: Each country can choose its own methods to reopen the economy.

Reporter: Mr Prime Minister, the store chains suggest that you keep the stores open until 7:00 pm or even until 8:00 pm, precisely because there are crowded during the weekends, the holidays are coming and it is crowded. In this context, I ask you: will you change this closing time?

Florin Cîţu: I have constant discussions with store chains, I also discussed before making this decision. The time was not discussed, we were only asked for a little time to prepare, but we did not discuss the time. 6:00 pm, they said, that's the decision, we understand. We asked the stores to comply with certain rules inside, how many people enter and so on. I have a constant discussion with retailers, I had it last year during the pandemic, I also had it during the emergency period, and I talk to them every day. They understand very well the situation that Romania is going through and they were with us last year when we went through the state of emergency (...) So, we talk to them. At this point, things stay the way they are because they work.

Reporter: The “Observator” team presented in the last two weeks the situation at the hospital in Timișoara, where eight people hospitalized in the large burn section have already died this year due to nosocomial infections. So far, the Minister of Health, Vlad Voiculescu, has not sent the Control Body, he is still waiting for some data from there. The question is if you had any discussion with Vlad Voiculescu on this topic and if you have a project through which, however, these nosocomial infections and this problem that has existed in Romania for several years, will be solved.

Florin Cîţu: We have a project. The project is new hospitals. It is the only solution to get rid of these infections. And that is why the PNRR includes 2.5 billion euros for the construction of new hospitals. We will also have the construction of new hospitals on a budgetary effort. We also have three regional hospitals. Therefore, it is the only solution to get rid of these nosocomial infections.

Reporter: About the situation in Timisoara ...

Florin Cîţu: In Timișoara, I talked to the minister. He said he would send the Control Body at some point. But it is his decision.

Reporter: Is there an option to send the Control Body to Timisoara?

Florin Cîţu: Thank you!

Reporter: Given that a significant percentage of HoReCa's businesses have closed altogether, Greece is investing more than 330 million euros in the coming weeks to help those who have closed their businesses completely, to reopen in order to relaunch tourism, have you prepared any help other than the one you have offered so far for the businesses that have closed or those that have gone bankrupt in the meantime?

Florin Cîţu: I will have discussions, I told you, with HORA tomorrow. So far, there have been several measures in Romania that have been instrumental: the kurzarbeit law is in force, the furlough measure is in force, the industry was exempt from the payment of the specific tax, for another three months, it is already a year and something since it is exempt from specific tax. We will discuss other measures as well. PNRR has funds for the private sector that those from HORECA can benefit from.

Reporter: Mr Prime Minister, please tell us specifically what studies did you rely on, when you decided that closing shops at 6:00 pm, is a measure that will prevent the spread of coronavirus? Have you seen the huge queues lately?

Florin Cîţu: I could see the situation of the economy in Romania if we did nothing. I have seen the evolution of cases and the number of positive cases increased from 2,000 persons per day, 3,000, to 6,000 in just a couple of days. The specialists' studies tell us that mobility is the factor spreading the virus the most, and the first measure that almost all EU countries took, was to reduce the opening hours for shops, etc. At the same time, you could see that after we took this measure, we have a plateau, even a decrease in the rate of positive cases of persons with COVID. It means that these measures had an impact. At the same time, regarding queues, I asked and I am waiting for this analysis to see how much we owe this decrease to the measures we took. We will be waiting, we will have analyses, we will return with them of course.

Reporter: Mr Prime Minister, before the pandemic, restaurants and other HORECA units operated in a clear regime, we have two areas: one for smokers, the other –for non-smokers. As the epidemiological situation allows, with the relaxation measures as of June 1, is it possible that these restaurants, HORECA units operate with the same regime as units, distinct areas for vaccinated persons or who did tests and for the persons who are not vaccinated?

Florin Cîţu: I am ready to hear the solutions from Horeca as well. We will see them, and we will discuss. That is the role of this committee, to put several solutions on the table, we will see..

Reporter: I understand that you discussed it on Friday, this is why I asked you.

Florin Cîţu: It has not been discussed. On Friday, we had the discussion and it will be an inter-ministerial committee that will eventually make a decision. We will see how they will work. The HORECA industry is operating within the economy, we have to make a decision for the entire economy to work. We will see what the conclusions of this committee will be as fast as possible.

Reporter: I return a little to the issue of private events, I refer to family events: people delayed events for this year, should they delay them for 2022 too? I want you to tell them clearly, should they schedule them for this summer or should they postpone them for next year?

Florin Cîţu: I announced today that after June 1st, we are talking about the return to normality. Of course, it is the first step, we will have at that moment only 35 percent of the population vaccinated, we cannot return to the situation prior to the pandemic. But it will be the first step. As we are thinking of solutions for the HORECA Industry or for the rest of the economy, of course, we are thinking for these private events, and we are ready to listen to solutions, how we can open them, but we will open them only when we make sure that these events will follow certain rules, as it is the case of HORECA, events, concerts. I agree that we discuss with everybody to see our next steps following June 1. We have two months to get prepared and I am sure that we will find the solution for all economic operators in the economy, irrespective of whether they are authorized natural person, etc.

Reporter: Mr Prime Minister, I have a question, you said that all the ministries will join this inter-ministerial committee. I would like to know how it is organized, and who will lead it?

Florin Cîțu: It is under the coordination of the prime minister.

Reporter: And how will it meet? Will there be weekly meetings? How to proceed? How did you think?

Florin Cîțu: You should know that this is not the first time this has happened.

Reporter: I'm convinced.

Florin Cîțu: The Inter-ministerial committees or the decisions we have taken so far following consultations. Of course, it's very simple there: each ministry will also have to have discussions on that sector, see what the needs are in that sector, discuss with the associations in that sector and then bring these solutions to the inter-ministerial committee, where we will discuss them. Because we can have a solution in the HoReCa sector, let's say ...

Reporter: But they could not be discussed during the meeting?

Florin Cîțu: For example, the Ministry of Economy has a discussion with the HoReCa sector and comes up with certain measures. But, the inter-ministerial committee will include also representatives of the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Health, employers, and associations, and each one will come with additions. Thank you.

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