Fresh News

Tuesday, 24 March

Press conference by Prime Minister Ludovic Orban at Victoria Palace on the measures to contain the COVID -19 epidemic

Ludovic Orban: Good evening. As you well know, I ended my self –isolation. At the end of the isolation period, I tested negative. During the 14-day isolation period, I carried out my duties as Prime Minister, and basically, I led the Government’s activity, I intervened for all necessary measures to be taken so that we attain the objectives set out for this period.

We continue to act based on some very precise lines pursuing some essential objectives. Our first and most important objective is to take care of the health and life of Romanian citizens, to reduce as much as possible the risk of contamination. As you know, I attended today, at the initiative of the President of Romania, a working meeting in which we thoroughly assessed our current situation, and we agreed on some measures to be adopted through a military ordinance by the Internal Affairs Ministry, with my approval as Prime Minister. All our measures aim at minimizing the risk of contamination with this virus.

There are measures to restrain the movement of the Romanian citizens.

If, until the issuance of the ordinance which is to be presented this evening by the Interior Minister and the team with Internal Affairs Ministry, the interdiction to leave the house was valid between 10 pm and 6 am, after the issuance of the military ordinance, we impose this restriction between 6 am and 10 pm. Basically, the citizens will be able to get out of their homes in order to go to work, to purchase necessary goods for everyday life - food, medicines and other products. They will have the possibility to leave their home for urgent medical examinations, which cannot be solved by telemedicine and require the citizen to go to the family doctor or to a hospital, in case there are more serious health issues. They will also be allowed to move around the house to exercise, to walk the pets. Basically, there will be limitations on the movement of citizens throughout the day.

I could also see the spreading of untrue information pertaining to the persons over 65 years. It is very clearly known that the most exposed category to the contamination is the elderly, the retirees, our parents, and our grandparents, everyone who is aged over 65 years. To protect them, only for this purpose, this ban on leaving home, but not all day long, will be introduced. There will be a time interval when pensioners, those over 65 years old, will be able to move and we even set the goal to make sure people over 65 years are served almost exclusively in grocery stores, pharmacies, so as not to interact with other citizens, to buy what they need for daily living. They can also go for a walk. Therefore, the way in which the measure was presented is not correct, and the Minister of Internal Affairs will present the content of the ordinance that will clarify this situation.

I continue to call on Romanians to be responsible, to fully observe the recommendations of physicians, recommendations that can protect them against virus contamination or may prevent others from being infected with the virus. All recommendations, all measures must be observed because it is much easier and much better if we stem the virus spread and reduce, as much as possible, the number of people who become infected with this virus.

Another important objective is the purchase of protective equipment, masks, gowns, visors, glasses, gloves, all protective equipment. I repeat so that everyone is informed. As law stipulates, strategic stocks must have normally existed, purchased in time to face an epidemic and the ensuing increase in the consumption of the materials needed to combat the epidemic. When we took over, the stocks were zero.

On February 4, we issued the Emergency Ordinance allowing the National Office for Centralized Procurement to start procedures to purchase these products which are fundamental for the medical staff protection, for the protection of public institutions employees who interact with the citizens, from Police, Gendarmerie, Border Police and all the other categories of personnel, and eventually to make this equipment available for private companies’ personnel.

At present, demand in the international market has increased explosively, we are making every possible effort to buy these quantities. We have had 'n' contracts, 'n' offers, which, unfortunately, could not be honored because of decisions made by different companies or different states that did allow us to see through the contracts that were signed.

We are currently facing very big difficulties with every contract. For example, in order to take 80,000 masks from a German company we had a contract with, intervention with the Minister of Health was needed, to issue a special order to release the amount to be delivered to Romania.

In the case of very many countries where we have contracts with the companies, diplomatic action is required, we should use all levers and if so far, only ONAC was involved in the procurement procedures, currently, all state institutions with connections, like the Ministry of Economy, Energy and for Business Environment, through trade subsidiaries, and all structures with the ability to sign contracts, state or private ones, joined this effort.

Currently, the purchase is organized with ONAC through Unifarm, through the Red Cross.I want to thank the Red Cross that joined us and all companies that made donations to the Red Cross especially in order to provide it with the necessary funds to make available to the Romanian state, the equipment necessary to protect the Romanian citizens. We make procurement through the Health Ministry, co-financed from World Bank, we are conducting procurement through other companies and structures, so that we manage to carry through any contract as soon as possible, and get this protective equipment, biocides, disinfectants.

We have greatly simplified the procedures to allow production in the country. The surgical mask production has already started in the country, it is about to start the production in Romania of medical gowns, plastic tubes by Romanian companies and we try to support these companies to increase their production, to be able to deliver larger quantities that can be made available to institutions, hospitals, family doctors, outpatients and all categories of employees who are on the front line of the battle against coronavirus.

The third important objective we pursued since the start of the epidemic was strengthening the Public Health Directorates. I can tell you that currently, compared to the initial number of employees, the number of Public Health Directorates’ employees grew by more than 4,000 nationwide. We have involved residents, school doctors, doctors available from different hospitals that are not on the frontline, in order to strengthen the capacity of Public Health Directorates that faced extreme difficulties and should unfold procedures, cope with missions for which they have not been prepared.

We should increase the capacity of Public Health Directorates to cope with these events. It is about strengthening the capacity to conduct epidemiological investigations. The epidemiological investigations – once a person tested positive, all the persons the infected came into contact with, enter quarantine home. The epidemiological investigations take place urgently and prevent many who came into contact with the persons testing positive, from spreading the virus among their close ones.

Epidemiological surveys have largely shown their results by curbing the virus spread. Also, the self –isolation system and the quarantine system. The Public Health Directorates must systematically monitor, in quarantine centers and also regarding the persons isolated at home, the extent to which measures are obviously observed in collaboration with the police, the gendarmerie, and the local authorities.

They should also watch over the observance of all procedures, as the number of people who finish their 14-day isolation, increases, and they must make sure that the exit from the isolation observes a procedure - all those who have symptoms are diagnosed, and those who do not have symptoms receive from the Public Health Directorates, practically, the permit to leave the isolation. The Public Health Directorates are also involved in the effort of deciding the measures concerning all citizens entering Romania.

You already know that Romania simply received tens of thousands of Romanian citizens who came back from countries such as: Italy, Spain, France, Germany, countries where the number of cases diagnosed positive is very high. There has been a considerate effort made by the DSP, together with the Border Police to ensure the control, processing of all statements and, in particular, to make sure that the implementation of quarantine and isolation decisions takes place in the best possible conditions.

I really appreciate the work of the DSPs and I congratulate all those who joined the effort and provided support, without having the necessary training, simply learning on a daily basis what to do, take risks and manage to make decisions to contain the epidemic. Also, after the Cotroceni meeting, I attended, together with the President of Romania, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Interior, the Minister of Transport, the Minister of Defence, a video conference with the hospital directors and the directors of the Public Health Directorates, and obviously, with prefects.

We are implementing a plan for the gradual preparation of hospitals – according to the number of persons testing positive, to receive patients for treatment. This plan has three stages of hospital preparation. The first line that works today, the second line includes hospitals of pulmonology, infectious diseases and other hospitals that have the capacity to treat and we also prepare the third line, to include hospitals in each county that can be prepared to exclusively treat people who test positive, to have an increased capacity, both in terms of the number of beds for the treatment of common cases and in the number of beds for the intensive care units. Of course, the procurement procedures are in different phases. Higher diagnosis capacity is very important as according to this, we can identify the persons infected with the virus. 

You must know that we started from a very small number of Real - Time PCR - analysis devices. Basically, in the first part, nine such Real - Time PCR devices worked, and 19 are currently operational. We have identified all the PCRs that we can put into operation for diagnosis. PCRs that exist either at ANSVSA, or at faculties, research laboratories, or in research institutes, or in hospitals, PCRs that exist and which must be put into operation. Also, 10 new devices are being purchased so far, also, through the Red Cross, which are currently distributed in the territory. Through Unifarm, we have a contract whereby 10 PCRs have already been purchased, of which four have already been assembled and are ready to be distributed.

During our videoconference, I gladly found out that hospitals took steps too in this respect and they purchased PCRs and testing kits. Our biggest problem over the next period is to ensure the testing kit. There has been talked a lot, a lot of people are good at coronavirus, just as they are at football and politics.

Epidemiologists, members of the Scientific Support Group, which works with the National Committee for Special Emergencies, have made it very clear: testing must be made on PCR devices. There are no quick tests. The rapid tests that are mentioned, surely they exist, but they do not have that type of accuracy that can give us confidence that if we use them, people who test negative are 100% negative.

There is a 20 percent margin of error if not more, which presents a huge risk. If out of 100 people who test negative, 20 people are positive because of the lack of accuracy of the rapid testing system, it means that we let actual carriers of the virus in the society, and they can transmit the virus to other citizens. The concentration we have is very clear.

Also, in addition to the contracts through the Red Cross and Unifarm, we started procedures through the Health Ministry too, on a program funded by the World Bank where we also have the goal of further purchasing PCR.

Concerning the kits, in addition to the kits which have been purchased so far, Unifarm informed me that there is a certain contract and we will receive 2,000 testing kits that have the capacity of testing at least 100,000 persons. This is the technical data in the near future. We are about to purchase ventilators. Unifarm has contracts signed for 100 ventilators, ONAC for 200 ventilators. They will come according to a schedule, as the production of these ventilators takes time. We are using all our resources to provide whatever is necessary to treat coronavirus in hospitals to prevent patients from getting worse.

We adopted two emergency ordinances concerning the economic measures: we currently establish the way to implement them, so as to streamline as much as possible the procedures, to simplify as much as possible, to be able to provide companies and employees all support forms we have decided through the emergency ordinance. We continue our work in the economic working group, we continue to consult with the business sector, the representatives of the professional associations, trade unions in order to identify other measures as well.

We intensely communicate with the National Bank of Romania and also with representatives of the financial –banking system to identify the best solutions to support the employers and employees, individuals and legal persons, with loans, so that we can help these people facing various situations and many of them perhaps in impossibility to pay their loans. Following this consultation, we are about to very clearly see what decisions the National Bank will make. The Government, in collaboration with the National Bank will adopt the necessary legislative documents to coordinate the measures taken by the National Bank with the governmental measures. If you have questions, please go ahead.

Reporter: Good evening, I understand that you will take a set of measures for people over 65. So far, we understood that they will be practically isolated, they will no longer have the right to go out and you advanced an interval. I would like you to give us some details about this interval so that they calm down.

Ludovic Orban: This evening, the Internal Affairs Ministry’s team will present you all the details of the Military Ordinance.

Reporter: I understand that the persons in quarantine or isolated will have some electronic marks. What is this all about?

Ludovic Orban: Together with STS, we will establish an application that would allow us to monitor the movements of the isolated or quarantined persons so that we can know, following the installation of this application, whether or not they go outside their domicile. You know very well that the Ordinance 2 included a measure which was not presented very clearly. We took the measure that whoever infringes the isolation regime, enters institutionalized quarantine at once and if a person who is in institutionalized quarantine, infringes the norms of institutionalized quarantine, receives other 14 days of institutionalized quarantine.

Obviously, such software exists in other countries and the operation of such software will ease a lot the mission of local authorities, Police, Gendarmerie, Public Healthcare Directorates. It will make it very easy for us to monitor the observance of home isolation measures. Now, let's be honest, many of those who came back have to be checked if they observe the isolation, because some of them, as seen on TV and as the police and gendarmerie found out, did not observe home isolation.

The home isolation measure should be enforced with maximum severity, and all additional measures; that we put them in quarantine if they infringe home isolation or we give them additional 14 days of quarantine, all these do not exonerate them from criminal and contraventional responsibility. I want to give a very clear signal here: we do not need special regulations regarding the Criminal Code. In the state of emergency, any crime can be punished with the maximum punishment, and with up to two years in addition to the maximum penalty. We will call for severe measures. Anyone who commits a crime, no matter what crime, we will ask for the speedy investigation of the case and the enforcement of the maximum penalty that is provided by law in the emergency situation.

Reporter: My question is why there was initially a recommendation on the part of authorities for people to stay home, and now, in a short time, the military ordinance with further restrictions.

Ludovic Orban: For a very simple reason: we announced ever since the start of the crisis, that we will take gradual measures according to the evolution of the epidemic. I remind you that when no country took such measures, we took the measure of home isolation, the measure to institute the quarantine, suspend classes, conduct epidemiological investigations, measures which have not been used by the countries where the epidemic extended, we took gradual measures which became more and more severe.

In a way and for the psychological training of people, I gave the recommendation that, through an Ordinance that will be presented this evening by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, we practically impose the ban, the obligation. I think it is a natural path and here I would make an observation. The normal state of affairs means democracy, respect for individual rights and freedoms. The fact that we have come to take such measures, we take them only to safeguard the health and life of citizens, only to reduce the risk of contamination. There are some exceptional measures, which are issued in a state of emergency and which should have a limited duration, but are necessary, otherwise, we would not have taken them. It is very clear: you remember that on Friday, Saturday people were so relaxed, they walked outside, ignoring the risk that still exists. But I think that the citizens must remain as responsible, they must rigorously observe all our recommendations and measures, because, I repeat, health is the most important and health can be best guarded by avoiding being infected with this virus.

Reporter: Mr. Prime Minister, Romania's biggest problem so far seems to have been the lack of tests, which were not sufficient, even with PCR equipment and the kits that were to be purchased. I would ask you what do you think would be Romania's testing capacity? Are we talking about tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people?

Ludovic Orban: Our goal over a time frame of five to seven days is to increase the testing capacity to over 2,000 tests, even with a tendency to reach 2500 tests per day, and also this testing capacity should continue to grow. We are conducting procedures, I repeat, not only the entities at the national level, but also the county hospitals, we will give the county hospitals the right to make direct procurements. Other entities that have the opportunity to make these procurements, should also make them because it is vital that as many contractors as possible of such PCRs and testing kits have the opportunity to sign contracts.

Reporter: If you still allow a question regarding the postponement of the rates for the Romanians: from the discussions that have existed so far, between the Government and the NBR, we are talking about the possibility of delaying the rates for a period of 3 months, can we talk about a possible postponement, to reach 9 months days?

Ludovic Orban: How much?

Reporter: At 9 months. There is a...?

Ludovic Orban: I want to tell you one simple thing, which must be understood by all people: the health of the economy depends on the health of the financial-banking system. When the financial-banking system no longer pumps money into the economy, it no longer lends companies, it no longer lends citizens, the state for public expenses, the economy is in a very serious problem.

We must, on the one hand, support companies and citizens who are facing problems due to the collateral or direct effects of restrictive measures, to be able to defer payment of instalments, we are ready to assume including the payment of a part of the interest, but, obviously, this measure must be taken in a collaboration between the National Bank, the Government of Romania and, obviously, the financial-banking system. You cannot force the financial-banking system to give up revenues without which it cannot function normally.

There should be a balance – which on the one hand, I repeat, should maintain the operation of the financial –banking system, not put the banks in a situation of lack of liquidities or in a situation affecting their good operation, and on the other hand, we should be able to offer a helping hand to companies and citizens in difficulty.

The balance should be sought through dialogue, collaboration, very serious consideration of each measure to be adopted. I know that there is a real competition now on draft laws, with promises of postponing bank instalments for 9 months, one year. This cannot be done as when the banks cannot finance the economy any longer, being deprived of the revenues they cannot get from elsewhere, will be affected themselves, and the economy shall suffer, as well as the citizens and the companies.

Reporter: Good evening, Mr. Prime Minister, Alexandru Vladescu, Antena 3. As we are living a historical moment, I would like to know if you have a message for the 250,000 Romanians with suspended contracts as they do not know when they return to work, and on the other hand, who guarantees that we will get our rights back and when is this to happen? Thank you.  

Ludovic Orban: As far as we are concerned, we took the measure of paying from the unemployment budget of the technical unemployment for the companies employees, companies affected by restrictive measures that were adopted by military ordinances or through CNSSU decisions, or are indirectly affected, with the turnover affected, the receipts, revenues up to more than 25 percent.

Concerning the persons with suspended contracts, surely, the relationship between employee and employer should be decided, how this situation is being solved, and as they are subject to the Ordinance provisions, obviously, we can pay the technical unemployment benefit to these persons too. With respect to these restrictions, as there is no real danger in spreading…after we reach the peak, there will be a decrease in the epidemic, and as the risk of contamination becomes significantly reduced, we will renounce the restrictions which were decided in the state of emergency.

Reporter: Is there no current estimate?

Ludovic Orban: Here, obviously, we need to take into account the opinions of the specialists, the opinions of the epidemiologists who know the evolution of epidemic although this type of virus is not enough investigated, and the predictions are not clear enough and have not been assumed by a large number of epidemiologists, so to be able to truly anticipate when we reach the peak and when there is a significant reduction in the number of people contaminated, in fact in the epidemic spread risk.

Reporter: Good evening! A first question, Prime Minister, is linked to the activity of pharmacies. What measures will the Government take for pharmacies to resume their normal activity, there are pharmacists who complain they cannot procure their medicines, and the necessary protective equipment, others complain of the lack of essential medicines for patients: they are said that some medicines exist in storehouses, but they never reach them.

Ludovic Orban: Yes, I know, this is the case of Euthyrox, for example, which is a medicine with the same molecule. It is also about….

Reporter: It is not a singular case, but is the best known.

Ludovic Orban: It is about other medicine which is used to my knowledge for diabetes, a solution is being sought for its replacement. Here, the Health Ministry, the Medicine Agency are seeking all solutions to ensure these medicines. You know very well that the Health Minister issued an order to prevent parallel export because of the regulated price at very many medicines in our country, I think it is among the smallest price in the EU. Many imported medicines in Romania and later they resold them to countries where the regulated price was higher.

The Health Minister banned this parallel export through his order. We are searching for solutions to any situation when we face a shortage of a necessary medicine. You know very well that nearly 2,000 medicines were withdrawn from the Romanian market because of the clawback tax, which reached 30 percent, generating an unbearable situation for the medicines importers who should bear 30 percent of the regulated price, very many registering losses and because of this, very many medicines were withdrawn from the market.

 We foresaw this situation and exactly for this reason, the healthcare measures included in the decree on instituting the state of emergency, stipulated keeping clawback at a lower level, at the level of December, until we find a solution for this clawback to reach a normal level nevertheless.

The medicines crisis was caused to a large extent by a price set in an administrative way, which is much smaller compared to the European average and this allowed the parallel export, in addition to a lack of interest for the Romanian market, as the interest is caused more by the parallel export. On the other hand, the health fund budget has always been capped, it has been allocated to bear the expenses with free and compensated medicines which allowed the gradual increase from 7 percent as it was initially the clawback tax to over 30 percent.

Reporter: There is however a small problem. From our information regarding this medicine, some pharmacies were told that this still is on storehouses, but we cannot find it in pharmacies. If the Health Ministry can intervene…

Ludovic Orban: Surely. I had discussions with the Minister of Health about this topic four days ago, I also spoke with Mrs. Pârvu, who currently holds the office of President at the National Agency for Medicines, precisely to be able to deliver either this medicine or equivalent medicines, which contain the same active substance, the molecule.

Reporter: And the second question is about the supply of hospitals, doctors, we know there are very big needs. It's a double question. There are fears about the procurement transparency, how will you ensure it transparently? Very many volunteers want to help, donate various materials, how can you make their work easier, for them to donate more easily?

Ludovic Orban: In terms of purchases, we carry them out through ONAC, through UNIFARM, which is the state-owned company under the Ministry of Health’s authority, through the Red Cross, so through more than honorable entities that make purchases at the prices they find. Now, you should know that for any product for which demand has increased explosively, there is a price increase, any manufacturer has raised the price. But, this is not about the mark -up, for example UNIFARM has a limited mark -up, ONAC has no mark –up they buy what they find on the market. It is important to be able to find what we need, sign contracts and especially that the delivery terms of the respective contracts are observed, because we have had situations in which we signed contracts and practically afterwards, we found out that the respective products will not be delivered to us.

Reporter: Regarding volunteers, who want to donate?

Ludovic Orban: As for volunteers, I recommend that, if they want to get involved, the most vulnerable people today and who need help the most, are the elderly, people isolated at home who have no income and who need support.  In order to know the list of these people, it is best to contact the mayor's office, the local administration, according to Military Ordinance 2, as the local administration has the obligation to identify these people who are in vulnerable situations and to support them. They can deliver different food, any other product categories to these vulnerable people or to elderly people with low mobility, no close relatives, they can purchase such products for them and they can deliver them, obviously, without coming into direct contact with those persons.

Reporter: Mr Prime Minister, please tell us: our hospitals are dramatically unprepared for this fight, despite the money you have allocated lately. In the coming weeks, how much money will you allocate for hospitals, if we also have money from the European Union and how will you solve the problem of the medical staff in the normal, non-infectious hospitals, where the medical personnel come in contact with the patients and we risk to remain without medical staff in hospitals?

Ludovic Orban: The first measure I took, and which is included in the decree establishing the state of emergency, was to ensure that hospitals receive a budget at the level of December last year, regardless of the number of medical benefits, hospitalizations, services and medical procedures that they carry out, precisely because there is a preparation of hospitals that gradually provides that hospitals to receive patients infected with coronavirus, will reduce their medical care to other categories of patients.

A sum is allocated for hospitals from the Health budget, administered by the National House of Health Insurance, at the level of December. The Health Ministry got additional financial resources through Government Decision, from the Government Reserve Fund, it is about 200 million euros, which are made available to the Health Ministry.

There is funding through the World Bank. Some expenses for the purchase of different equipment, substances can be defrayed from the EU budget. I can therefore tell you that at present, hospitals do not have a shortage of funds. Our biggest problem at present is the purchase of materials, equipment, necessary substances, including biocides, disinfectants, so that disinfection can be permanently ensured, and all the other categories of protective equipment.

Surely that all amount we purchase will be delivered immediately to hospitals and there is a delivery schedule including several categories. We will take over the domestic production, also with various Romanian companies, such as: Oltchim, that makes a donation to the Health Ministry. Farmec will also receive tomorrow the Medicine Agency’s agreement to produce disinfectants alike other companies that are involved in manufacturing such materials.

The problem is not the money at present, but the protective equipment, the diagnosis equipment, and especially the kits, as our objective is to get in each hospital, at county level especially, to have at least a PCR with enough kits, so that we can test the medical staff on the frontline, all persons arising suspicions of infection.

I want to be very clear regarding testing, we observe certain recommendations which were formulated by the European Commission based on recommendations formulated by the European experts who established the testing priorities that we observe. I repeat our objective is to test as soon as possible. I asked for some measures to be taken as soon as possible. Triage is among the measures I requested to be taken. With the support of the Department for Emergencies, almost all important hospitals got those triage tents, which are outside hospitals, the triage is outside, and not indoors in the emergency care units.

Observing some procedures concerning patients was recommended, any patient with the slightest symptom of the virus should not be admitted to a ward with others, as in the past, but in special wards. Medical staff should take all protective measures whenever they interact with such persons and diagnose them as quickly as possible so as to minimize the contamination risk as much as possible through a patient who is infected, many are hospitalized for other reasons, you see, they were hospitalized for a disease and they were actually virus carriers.

Also, as we send the protective equipment and materials, very strict rules for the protection of doctors must be imposed, by the management of each hospital. Here, on the one hand, there were some managers who neglected such protection measures, on the other hand there were some medical professionals who sometimes mocked on these protection measures. But, at the present time, any patient who is admitted to the hospital, has to know some important things: if he has an international travel history, if he was or is in isolation at home, obviously, things that can help in taking a decision regarding how the patient was admitted.

Reporter: What happens if these protective equipment come late?

Ludovic Orban: They have already been delayed in terms of contracts and delivery schedules. We make huge efforts, I told you, all categories, to purchase from any country where such producers exist and I am convinced that we will overcome this situation of shortage. They exist, of course, they have been distributed, but they are still in an insufficient number and because of this they must be used where there are the greatest risks.

Reporter: Good evening, Prime Minister. I am interested to know the exact date, more precisely when the emergency certificates are issued, because we know that without them, the technical unemployment cannot be paid and when is the minister's order be issued?

Ludovic Orban: No, no, no, so the technical unemployment cannot be paid only for those companies that have closed as a result of restrictive decisions imposed either by military ordinance or by decision of the National Committee for Emergency Situations. For example, we closed hotels and restaurants. These, only those companies that have this object of activity and which have undergone restrictive measures will receive that certificate for emergencies. It will be released as soon as possible because, of course, it was included in the presidential decree and we had to comply, that is, we observed the presidential decree. On the other hand, issuing this certificate is very easy, because if the owner says he has a hotel, the hotel has been closed and the certificate for emergency situations is issued automatically.

Reporter: What about the second category indirectly affected?

Ludovic Orban: We have been working on procedures for the second category. The ordinance says that based on a self-declaration which should be later checked, if the revenues, turnover went down by minimum 25 percent, they benefit. It will be a self –declaration and later checks. I call on all companies’ representatives to be fair and tell the truth, as we can check the extent to which the business turnover was affected.

Reporter: When the Minister’s order is to be drawn up?

Ludovic Orban: In the shortest time possible. I think the Minister of Economy will issue an order this week, but you can ask him.

Reporter: And the second question, what additional powers will you give to the Army, in this exceptional situation? Will we see soldiers patrolling the streets?

Ludovic Orban: I discussed with the President of Romania and the Minister of Defence.The army will be involved in security missions, patrol missions and also in border missions, ie they will support the Border Police and the representatives of the public health departments that are at the border and that practically interact with all those who come to Romania and decide on the measures to be taken.

Reporter: Minister, tell me if you have requested derogation from Article 15 of the European Convention on Human Rights and if you did it, why?

Ludovic Orban: Allow me to document myself, to give you an answer to this question. It is possible that this action was taken, because we established the state of emergency. And by establishing the state of emergency, it is normal that certain rights that are provided in the decree establishing the state of emergency, were affected. I am not perfectly documented, I will give you the answer to this question when I am documented.

Reporter: With respect to the vaccine, I understand that this vaccine will be tested in Romania. Did you discuss about it? A doctor talked about testing this vaccine.

Ludovic Orban: My request to you is to disseminate only those information that is confirmed by the authorities, by the people involved in the decision, and no longer transmit information that may come from a doctor, a doctor is not necessarily an authority. Efforts are being made internationally and there are teams of Romanian researchers who are probably included in different research teams, and we have groups that are looking to do research in this area, but any information, especially information regarding the existence of a vaccine gives hope, which, if not correct, we risk creating illusions for our fellow citizens without having certain information and it is not fair to the citizens. Any information related - that's why I told you about the fast tests, the fast tests are a story, I know, I saw that there are a lot of people advising us to buy 2 million, 3 million fast tests, to test the population. There are no such situations at present. Of course, when the testing system is perfected and there is currently an improvement of the diagnostics on the PCR system, which is also on the same principle and there will be products that are accessible on the international market, of course we will buy them, but only after the specialists assure us that they are 100% accurate, as are the diagnoses that are made by the current real -time PCR.

Reporter: You had today a videoconference with the hospital directors. Following these discussions, do you have an assessment of the number of doctors and medical staff representatives who tested positive or in quarantine at this moment, at the level of the entire country and how many hospitals are affected? How would you assess the way these hospitals are being prepared?

Ludovic Orban: The cases are public, you know very well that they are doctors and nurses at the Suceava hospital, we still do not have information about the University Hospital, but there all the measures were taken, the new manager imposed another pace of work and, obviously, the epidemiological investigation has been carried out, we have no information.

We have information about a case at Neamt County Hospital, which was also discussed during the videoconference, as the Hospital in Roman was initially considered for the treatment of COVID infected patients, but because of this case of infection, decision may change and the Piatra Neamt hospital may be dedicated to the treatment of the persons contaminated with coronavirus. There are still one, two isolated cases. We surely watch carefully, as long as we increase the diagnosis capacity, where there were cases, we will obviously have the test doctors and nurses, persons on the frontline.

Reporter: There are doctors in various hospitals in the country complaining that they are not ready, they did not receive equipment, or they have not been trained.

Ludovic Orban: I have received messages on Messenger, on SMS, including phone calls from several doctors, I communicate with any health professional, doctor, nurse and seek information because I have to admit that hospital managers often, especially in the system of the videoconference in which we participate, attended also by the prefect, and also the director of the Public Health Directorate, may not reflect their real needs. Anyway, I asked them today: demand what you need! But do this considering the needs for a predictable period of time, so that we can make a schedule of deliveries according to the quantities that we receive and do it in a differentiated way, according to needs because the Hospital in Fălticeni, for example, may have different needs from the Hospital in Rădăuţi, or the Suceava County Hospital. The needs are different and we need to know, according to the quantities that arrive, to distribute them according to the real needs that exist in each hospital unit.

Reporter: And the second question, how will you make sure that the measures concerning the elderly, the new measures, will be observed and implemented especially in rural areas and in small towns, where many of these people are alone, and the city halls, community services are outdated as staff number? There are entire villages where there are no policemen and so on.

Ludovic Orban: First, I trust the goodwill of our parents and grandparents, the fact that they will understand that this measure aims at protecting them, minimizing as much as possible the risk of contamination. More will the virus spread slowed down, least will last this measure. I trust that they will understand this measure and I confess having the slightest fears regarding our parents and grandparents observing this restriction which is a temporary one.

Reporter: My question also pertains to the aid that people who need it, should receive it. There are people who need help with shopping.

Ludovic Orban: This is why I told any volunteers who want to get involved, who have the opportunity to donate, to keep in touch with the local administrations, even in rural areas, where there are higher needs and where there are more vulnerable people, especially the elderly, so as to support these people to make a living.

Reporter: A first question. There are fears about a potentially dangerous restriction of freedoms, fundamental rights, through excessive information centralization, derogation from the ECHR, which was reported by the press, and not necessarily by an official statement and which was not explained very clearly. What guarantees can you give, as prime minister and government, that there will be no abuses, as there are people behind the institutions, nevertheless?

Ludovic Orban: My 30-year activity is the best guarantee. I am a defender of democracy, and freedoms. I had to take part in these restrictive measures which only aim at defending the health and life of the citizens and they will be for short time until there is no risk of this virus spread which is very versatile and has a high contamination level.

Reporter: Can you give assurances that there are no people who can take advantage and will there be no slippage?

Ludovic Orban: Anyone who commits an offence will be severely punished if he / she obviously abuses the emergency situation.

Reporter: How much money is coming from Brussels and what would be the investment priorities for this money?

Ludovic Orban: At present, we are sure that we will have funding for the healthcare system, for the fight against coronavirus, which will most likely come from the European Social Fund. We also have available pre-financing, which is about 600 million euros. Further measures are also likely to appear, which will make available resources, either from the programs that are intended for Romania or from resources that are within the budget of the European Union. Also, measures can be taken by the European Central Bank, which will benefit Romania in addition to the other European countries.

Reporter: But you are not ready at this time to say 'part of the amount goes there, part of the amount goes into another project'.

Ludovic Orban: I can't tell you a certain amount. I have given you the amounts that I know are currently available to use from European funds.

Reporter: One week ago you said that you found the Public Health Directorates in clinical death.

Ludovic Orban: No, I took the DSPs over in clinical death.

Reporter: How did they change so suddenly? You praised them today.

Ludovic Orban:  We hired personnel, using the provisions of the decree instituting the emergency situation – surely, we took steps before the decree on emergency situation – we could hire residents, doctors…

We had, for example, 21 epidemiological physicians, who have completed their residency, were subject to an examination and had not found a job and we managed to integrate them, because, unfortunately, the DSPs were working on the basis of the Civil Servant, employment could be done based on the competition procedures and it would have taken us a long time to do this. Obviously, we called on the school doctors, to the school nurses who represent a very useful and very valuable human resource, we called on employees from other hospitals, who are not on the frontline of the battle to strengthen public health directions.

Reporter: Mr. Prime Minister, are you considering helping also the companies that continue to perform their activity, even if they suffered in this period and maintain all their employees, such as: tax exemption for these companies that are paying the respective employees?

Ludovic Orban: We are studying this possibility. The reality is that Romania was in a difficult budgetary situation before the outbreak of the epidemic: a deficit of 4.6 on cash, with large imbalances, trade deficit, and current account deficit. There is almost no room for budget and fiscal manoeuvre, this possibility is very small. Keep in mind that revenues will fall too and at the same time, spending will increase greatly. We want our few resources available to be used in the most beneficial way for companies and employees. These resources are instead limited, they cannot be used for a long time and if we give up, for example, that certain operational companies to benefit from tax exemptions, we may create a lack of resources which, subsequently, puts us in an extremely difficult situation in terms of being able to cover expenses.

Pensions should be duly paid, also the salaries, all the other categories of compulsory expenses, we should also cope with an increase in the healthcare expenditure, in the defence, public order expenditure, plus the measures we took to support employees and employers. We obviously created the instrument for SMEs which help the companies that are operational, that want to invest, that need working capital.

We will have to think about measures for larger companies and especially for viable companies that are temporarily affected in order to grant different types of aid. We announced from the Environment Fund that the Car Scrap Program will benefit from 60,000 units, which means an incentive for the car manufacturers, through the Car Scrap Program. We ensure the financial resources for the 60,000 units so that cars can be purchased. We want to use incentives in other areas as well, but I do not want to announce a measure until we are 100 percent sure that that measure is fair, sustainable and generates beneficial effects for the companies.

Reporter: And a second question: we know that in each hospital there is a treatment plan adopted by the hospital, but there are all kinds of active substances, which are referred to, such as chloroquine or even antiviral medicines with effects. When will we have a common national plan for treating COVID-19 symptoms?

Ludovic Orban: When we have this plan, we will present it. You are referring to the treatments that are being applied. There is an area where there are no certainties, in certain cases, certain treatments yielded results, in other cases other treatments. Obviously, we are trying to introduce in Romania medicines that have worked well in other countries. On the other hand, you cannot currently guarantee, for example, that a certain treatment does well for everyone. I'm not a doctor, but it's clear that treatments should be used depending on the type of case and how patients respond to treatment.

Reporter: Good evening, Prime Minister. The first question, please: when will you do the budget rectification and if you are considering allocating money to the local authorities, especially, as they need help for the elderly? Or will you take money from other ministries to give to the health budget?

Ludovic Orban: We intend to allocate resources to local authorities to cover social expenses, to support vulnerable people, who were in isolation at home and for whom the local authorities have already spent funds.

Reporter: So, we have the money.

Ludovic Orban: We will surely do the budgetary rectification, we do not delay it very much, probably two, three weeks, no more, but we must have the guarantee that we can correctly anticipate the level of revenues and the level of expenditure on each category of expenditure so so that we can make a rectification that will help us provide our financial resources, in fact the allocation of resources to the necessary areas.

Reporter: In this context, how many months of economic crisis does Romania afford?

Ludovic Orban: I hope that the epidemic will be overcome as quickly as possible and clearly we are already preparing to restart the engines once it passed. For now, there are activities that are otherwise profitable and which, for example, transport - transport is an activity that contributed to the Gross Domestic Product, which allowed the collection of very high incomes. Here we have also struggled at European level and, finally, I hope that the transport lanes at the European level will be defined, so that there is no problem related to freight, as we have had in the last few weeks.

Reporter: Is Romania ready for scenario four, because, as the situation evolves currently, is it possible to get there?

Ludovic Orban: Therefore, we have been taking steps gradually, progressively, measures that are taken according to a plan. We are constantly increasing the treatment capacity of infected persons in the second line. Already in the second line – pulmonary care hospitals, infectious disease hospitals and so on - the number of beds is increased also for easy, mild cases, and for cases requiring intensive care. We also increase the capacity for line 3. I am convinced that this capacity will increase sufficiently and I am optimistic.

Reporter: Thank you!

Ludovic Orban: Thank you!

 

 



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