Romanian Government

Friday, 19 March

Press briefing by Prime Minister Florin Cîțu, Vice Prime Minister Dan Barna and Minister of investments and European projects Cristian Ghinea at the end of the Cabinet meeting of March 19


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Florin Cîțu: Good afternoon! In today’s Cabinet meeting, a more special meeting, the second important of this year, first of all, I approved the Government Decision whereby the ceiling for the „New Home” is granted, an important programme. It is the last year of this program, 2017 – 2021, with a ceiling of 1.5 billion lei. I am sure that very many Romanians were waiting for the continuation of this program and today, it was approved in the Cabinet meeting. The second issue discussed today in the Cabinet meeting is the National Recovery and Resilience Plan. I want to say that, after Romania’s budget, it was the second test of this coalition, which very clearly shows that it is a united, strong coalition and set to carry out its work over the next years, considering that PNRR should be implemented until 2026, it seems we should be here, after 2024 too, in order to make sure that it is implemented. I want to thank the colleagues I have worked with, Minister Ghinea, it is a very good job, also Vice Prime Minister Barna and all Ministers colleagues and colleagues of the ruling coalition, PNL Chairperson Ludovic Orban, we have worked all together. Today, we have for public debate, a National Recovery and Resilience Plan which represents today’s Romania priorities. We allocate important resources for road and railway infrastructure, but we want to build highways too through this program. Of course, the gas network, we want to also build new hospitals, we clearly stipulated it in this program, and of course, we want to take social measures. Therefore, we attach importance to all priorities, a reform that Romania needed, and reforms cost and we have this funding, a chance we cannot miss. Minister will present the details. I just wanted to tell you that today, we enter public debate, everybody will see the schedule. Next week, through a memorandum, we will adopt the mandate through which this programme for the government will be negotiated.

One question, please, as I would like to give Minister the chance to present you in detail the schedule and afterwards, you can ask questions about it.

Reporter: Prime Minister, in Craiova, a patient with coronavirus lost his life while waiting for an ICU bed. It is the second case. There are further persons who are waiting. What is happening there? How will you unlock the situation and do you have a plan to supplement beds at the national level?

Florin Cîțu: I am sure there is a plan, it will be presented. I had a discussion some minutes ago with the Health Minister and Mr Raed Arafat. We will have a few meetings this weekend to assess the situation and we will see exactly the elements which can be added over the next period. I expect the Health Ministry to tell us something about what is happening in Craiova, I do not know exactly the situation, but I repeat that we need to carry out checks in all hospitals, on a daily basis, to see the situation of beds exactly, and of course, the Health Ministry will present the plan for this period, in the next days.

Reporter: But there are tens of patients waiting for an ICU bed, and who cannot wait. Do you have a crisis cell?

 Florin Cîțu: I would like to check this information, as last year, I was in a time, .....there were two waves, you know very well, and many of the information has not been checked. But I repeat the Health Ministry is dealing at this moment with supplementing the ICU beds.

Reporter: Mr Prime Minister, you said that the PNRR has been debated today, in the first reading, and it will be approved next week by the Government you are leading.

Florin Cîţu: I would like to check this information because I also experienced in the previous year... there were two waves, you know very well, and a lot of the information went unchecked. But, I repeat, the Ministry of Health is certainly in charge of supplementing the ICU beds at this moment.

Reporter: Mr Prime Minister, you said that the National Recovery and Resilience Plan was debated today, in the first reading, and will be approved next week by the Cabinet you are leading. Will you submit this Plan to the Parliament to be debated by the reunited plenary of the two Chambers, as requested by the Social Democratic Party?

Florin Cîţu: The plan was presented in the Romanian Parliament, in the committees, and it will be presented, I understand from the Minister, again, in the Romanian Parliament, so, it is also presented in the Romanian Parliament. But the approval, the debate is taking place in the Romanian Government.

Reporter: You said that you spoke earlier with the Minister of Health, Vlad Voiculescu. In this context, I ask you if the British strain in Romania becomes a problem, in the context in which a private clinic did 94 tests at random - this is not the first time this has happened - and 88 out of 94 tests are with the British strain.

Florin Cîţu: We should focus on the things that solve the problems and I focus a lot on the vaccination campaign. We know very well that, at this moment, the only way to get out of this situation and return to normal is a successful vaccination campaign. So, we focus on continuing the vaccination campaign. I had earlier a discussion with the Minister of Defense and I was told that, from 5 April, they could supplement by 10% the places or the number of people who can be vaccinated in military centres.

You know very well that from the third stage, they are open to all people, just as we decided from the first moment when we approved these military centres. So we will do everything possible to speed up the process. We also know that we will receive more doses of vaccine in April than scheduled, so the solution to exit as soon as possible this situation is a successful vaccination campaign and, of course, to follow the rules. As I always say: the mask is mandatory in public spaces, we should be much more careful with social distancing.

Reporter: But do you have any clues that this British strain, which we know is spreading much faster, is becoming a major strain among COVID cases?

Florin Cîţu: I don't have this information at this moment, but we will have some discussions in this respect.

Reporter: How do you see that amendment tabled to the law abolishing the SIIJ, by which prosecutors and judges can be investigated only with the approval of the SCM? It doesn't practically give them super immunity, but is it also a reason for unconstitutionality?

Florin Cîţu: I have always said that I want the draft law to come out of the Romanian Parliament as close as possible to the form I have adopted in the Government. I continue to discuss with my colleagues, the draft law goes to the Senate and we will try there to have a change that will bring it as close as possible to the form that we approved in the Cabinet meeting. I remain of the opinion that that is the best form for Romania today.

Reporter: But don't you think that this added amendment is a reason for unconstitutionality?

Florin Cîţu: I leave it to the specialists to rule on unconstitutionality.

Reporter: Mr Prime Minister, today we have registered the most people admitted at ICU, over 1,300. I would like to ask you if, in the discussion with Mr Raed Arafat and Mr Voiculescu, they informed you about the fact that there are no more ICU beds in Bucharest and when this issue could be solved. What if we are already at the edge of the health system, at least in the COVID area?

Florin Cîţu: At this moment, all the staff of the Ministry of Health, those from DSU and so on must fulfil their objectives that I said last week. 1,600 beds are needed. From the discussion I had with Mr Arafat, it emerged that the number of beds will be supplemented, 10-12 in the next few days in Bucharest, so there are short-term solutions; long-term solutions are now being sought in order to have the 1,600 beds, the target we asked the Ministry of Health last week. I'm sure we'll attain that goal soon.

Reporter: But did you also give a deadline or did they tell you when they could ...?

Florin Cîţu: This is urgent. You don't even have to give a deadline. Things need to happen very urgently because you see that we need ICU beds.

Reporter: Therefore, in the coming days, 10-12 ICU beds only in Bucharest. Can you tell us where they will be ...?

Florin Cîţu: No. Mr Arafat has all the information and will certainly make it public.

Reporter: You said you wanted to remain until 2026 to implement this plan which is thought until then.

Florin Cîţu: It is necessary.

Reporter: On the other hand, PSD announced for next week, other simple motion against Agriculture Minister Adrian Oros. It is about the allocation of European funds, they reproach him several things, including legislative projects, and they announced that they will also submit a motion of censure in this session. The question is: given that you are talking about schools in underprivileged communities or hospitals, things that need to be done in collaboration with some local PSD administration, how do you see this communication with censure motions almost every week and the further implementation of PNRR?

Florin Cîțu: I remember that last year I was part of a Cabinet that governed Romania in a difficult period, with a majority Parliament led by PSD that tried to hinder us every day and we managed to cope with it, and not only that, but we managed to govern Romania well last year. This year we will ignore them.

Reporter: Given that today we have a record number of positive cases at ICU, over 1,300 cases, and that the number of positive cases is still very high, are you considering introducing new restrictions, tightening the measures to be applied nationwide and if you have heard of the possibility of Bucharest being quarantined?

Florin Cîțu: I also like to look at the data a lot and I would like to remind you that the figures we see today were in November and December last year, but today we have a few more restrictions. You know very well that we changed the nighttime curfew, from 11.00 pm to 10.00 pm. At the same time, the number of people who went to ICU is smaller than we could have perceived from the previous wave. Then we went from 600 to 1200 cases, now from 950 to 1300 cases, therefore, things are a little different. And today we have one more thing we didn't have a few months ago: a vaccination campaign. We have the vaccine! So these things need to be taken into account before making a decision on what to do with the restrictions. I say that, at this moment, we need to evaluate the situation, to see how things are going, but my priority is to speed up the vaccination campaign, with all the possibilities we have, because it is the only solution to overcome the pandemic as soon as possible. Anything else is only temporary and you can solve the problem in the short term. The vaccination campaign and the vaccine is the only long-term solution.

Reporter: Therefore, you do not consider taking other restrictive measures.

Florin Cîțu: For the time being, no.