At their first online meeting, the joint sessions of Parliament approved the state of emergency in Romania for 30 days due to the spread of the coronavirus. The representatives and deputies voted on Thursday through an electronic application created internally by the specialist departments of the Deputies’ Chamber and Senate.
The heads of the two Chambers, Marcel Ciolacu and Titus Corlatean, were present in the plenary session hall, but all other lawmakers attended the meeting through an audio teleconference. At the meeting, the state of emergency was unanimously approved, with 445 parliamentarians voting in favor of the decision.
During the state of emergency, all educational institutions, schools and universities will be closed, all indoor events will be banned, and restaurants and pubs will be closed. Air traffic between Romania and Spain, as well as between Romania and Italy, has been suspended, reception of customers in public institutions will be restricted, and the judiciary is now only handling urgent cases. Harsher penalties for quarantine violators were also accepted.
On a teleconference between the government and county authorities, President Klaus Iohannis asked Romanians living abroad to cancel plans to return home for the Easter holiday, as most of them would be quarantined anyway. He also pointed out that it is very difficult to travel nowadays in Europe.
“Send this message on all channels: Romanians living abroad are dear to us. We want to see them, we would like to be together, but this year, for these holidays, this is not possible. It is sad, but we need to be honest in order to not create expectations that will not be fulfilled,” the president said.
Despite the presidential request, the Romanian Border Police reported that more than 16,000 Romanian citizens have come back to the country through the humanitarian corridor opened up by the Hungarian authorities on Tuesday night, after Hungary had closed its borders.
At a marathon-long session, the government adopted a series of safety measures to reduce the effects of the coronavirus. Among others, the government decided to ensure allowances of those who had entered technical unemployment due the virus crisis. The government will cover 75 percent of the gross salary, but no more than 75 percent of the gross average salary. The cost is covered by the Labour Ministry’s budget, through the unemployment budget. Prime Minister Ludovic Orban explained that the measure is aimed at two categories of employers: Those who had to suspend their activity due the restrictive measures instituted by the authorities in the state of emergency (i.e., restaurants) and those whose turnover was reduced by a minimum of 25 percent as a consequence of the virus.
Orban pointed out: It is the state’s duty to help good, profitable companies so that they can survive the economic decline caused by the virus. Orban also explained that the Government did not want to make a contribution towards salaries if employees were forced to go to work; the Government’s aim is to provide the possibility of staying at home and avoiding social contact that could increase contamination risk, thus they decided to pay for those who are technically unemployed.
The government also decided to raise the credit guarantee ceiling for SMEs by RON 5 billion, which can be raised up to RON 15 billion if necessary. “Practically, we will guarantee loans for investments and working capital, for which the interest is 100% subsidized. Furthermore, the guarantee covers 90 percent of the loan value in case of credits worth up to RON 1 million, and the guarantee will be 50 percent for credits of over 1 million,” Orban said on Thursday.
The government also wants to return another RON 9 billion to the economy by reimbursing VAT to companies so they can have the funds to operate.
The Government also accepted budget supplements for the Ministries of Health (MS) and Interior Affairs (MAI). The MS’s budget was supplemented with another RON 42 million to support the costs of the quarantine centers. Another RON 100 million was added to the MAI’s budget to cover the costs of protective equipment for staff working at the Ministry, such as Police, Border Police, Emergency Responders and Gendarmerie.
The government is also ensuring the working capital of state-owned Unifarm Company, which operates under the Ministry of Health, to procure essential items needed by the ministry, hospitals and other healthcare institutions, Orban said.
Seventeen new coronavirus cases have been recorded in Romania since the evening of Wednesday, March 18, bringing the total number of cases to 277, the Strategic Communication said on Thursday, March 19 (13:00). Of these, 25 were declared cured. A total of 3,822 people are currently in institutionalized quarantine, and almost 34,000 are in home isolation.
Title image: Until March 19 a total number of 277 coronavirus cases were reported in Romania. Photo: maszol.ro