The Coronavirus has reached Romania
Two months since its emergence in China, the new coronavirus has this week reached Romania. The zero patient was not a Romanian, as most people had expected, given the large Romanian community in Italy, the most affected European country. It was an Italian who had come for a few days to Romania, and subsequently tested positive for coronavirus infection. The first Romanian who got infected is 25 years old, has interacted with the Italian and is currently isolated at the 'Matei Bals' Infectious Disease Hospital in Bucharest. The tests have shown that he is just a carrier. Ever since the first case in the Covid-19 outbreak, Romania started getting ready for all potential scenarios, and protection measures have been enhanced, given the spread of the virus across Europe. The measures include additional verification on border-checkpoints, placing under quarantine people coming from risk areas and setting up a phone line for those interested in getting accurate information about the virus. Also, the Government, together with the Red Cross, has developed an information and awareness raising campaign. In order to ensure fair and transparent communication with the media and the population, an integrated communication group has been set up with the Department for Emergency Situations, and all public communications are made via this structure. On Wednesday, president Klaus Iohannis convened the country's Supreme Defense Council to discuss a strategy to combat a potential coronavirus outbreak in Romania.
The political situation in Romania
Romania has a new Prime Minister Designate, the incumbent Finance Minister Florin Citu. The announcement was made on Wednesday night by the head of state, who also highlighted the events happening on the Romanian political scene during the Liberal governing. Klaus Iohannis praised the National Liberal Party for their reforming agenda and accused the Social Democratic Party of constantly trying to block the activity of the executive. The president recalled that the first Liberal Cabinet, headed by Ludovic Orban, was dismissed under a motion of no-confidence by a majority gathered by the Social Democratic Party against the bill providing for the return to the two-round type of mayoral elections. A new designation of Orban was challenged at the Constitutional Court by the Social Democrats. And the Court, taking into consideration the declared intention of both the Liberals and the head of state to trigger early elections and not to gather a parliament majority for investiture, declared Orban's designation as unconstitutional. The president said that by appointing Florin Citu he wanted to overcome the deadlock and solve the country's problems. Florin Citu, who on Friday announced he had submitted to Parliament the list of ministers and the governing program, has stated he will try to muster the needed majority for investiture. The only change in the structure of the Cabinet is Lucian Heius for the Finance Ministry, which has been headed by Florin Citu. The main opposition party, the Social Democratic Party, has announced it will not vote a government headed by Florin Citu.
The European Commission's Country Report
The European Commission has warned Romania that it runs the risk of not being able to sustain its budget deficit as well as pension and pay rises. The European Commission's report on Romania, which is one of the 27 describing the main economic and social challenges facing every member state, shows that Romania is facing a major risk of not being able to support the higher public fiscal deficit corroborated with higher pension expenses. The report also mentions a significantly reduced labour force and a dropping number of skilled workers and also a drop in the active population, including because of migration. Furthermore, training and education policies have proved inefficient and failed to meet labour market requirements. The report also points to the wage-productivity gap, with salaries increasing way faster than productivity. In spite of an average growth of 5% in the past three years, income inequality remains high and so does the poverty rate, while the gap between developed and less developed regions continues to deepen. In all, Romania has made progress in implementing the country specific recommendations, starting with 2013. However, even if efforts have been made in several fields, actions have been slow and the country must do more in order to reach tangible results in implementing the reforms, the EC says in its report.