COVID-19 restrictions further eased in Romania
June 1 came with a new stage in easing restrictions in Romania, even though the threat of the novel coronavirus is not yet behind us. With the death toll recently passing 1,300 out of 20,000 infection cases confirmed in the 3 months since the virus first hit Romania, the country now lifts another set of restrictions.
Some of the measures introduced on March 15 to contain the spread of the virus had already been lifted two weeks ago, when the state of emergency was replaced by a state of alert. As of May 15, for example, people could leave their homes without needing a sworn statement to travel within the locality. Parks and museums reopened, and things took a turn to normalcy.
The results of an analysis run by decisionmakers now, 2 weeks into implementing the new rules, prompted them to announce that as of June 1 Romania would take further steps to lift containment measures.
These steps include the reopening of outdoor bars and restaurants and beaches, as well as the organization of outdoor performances with up to 500 people in attendance. Sports competitions that do not require direct contact between athletes are also resumed, and so is international road and railway transport. People can also travel freely from one locality to another. But even though some restrictions were eased, president Klaus Iohannis reiterated, caution is still needed.
Constitutional Court rulings
Romania’s Constitutional Court ruled down any extension of local elected officials’ terms in office, and the date of the forthcoming elections must be agreed on by the Government and Parliament. On Wednesday, the Court ruled that a government emergency order extending the terms in office of local elected officials was unconstitutional. The Court also dismissed a bill passed by Parliament on the term in office for local public authorities and on the date of the local elections.
Judges argued that an extension of these terms in office can only be regulated by law, and not by a government order. Parliament had passed a bill extending the term in office in local administration until the end of the year, in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, and giving Parliament the right to set a date for local elections.
Constitutional Court judges argued however that institutional cooperation between Parliament and Government is necessary, and that local elections must be scheduled before the end of local authorities’ current term in office, on June 21. This means that as of next week parliamentary parties must start to prepare and table legislation to regulate the forthcoming local elections.
New economic recovery measures
The IMM Invest programme has been improved by the Government, which announced plans to also increase the budget earmarked for this programme, so as to triple the number of companies benefitting from these funds in a few weeks. Moreover, the Government has put together a plan to also support large companies affected by the crisis, similar to the programme devoted to small and medium-sized enterprises.
The finance minister Florin Cîţu said the programme to support large companies will have a budget of around 1.6 billion euro, and will be ready within a month. He also announced that Bucharest will have to deposit guarantees of 393 million euro to be able to access funds under the EU’s SURE programme, which targets active employment measures and which could channel up to 5 billion euros into Romania.
Festivals postponed in Romania
Major festivals, which had become a tradition in Romania and used to be scheduled every summer, were officially cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic and of relevant restrictions. Untold was due to take place between July 31 and August 2 in Cluj-Napoca (north-west), while Neversea was scheduled for early July in Constanţa, on the Black Sea coast.
According to organisers, the decision was made in the context of the uncertainties looming over the events industry and of the strict conditions under which people are allowed to meet. The Culture Ministry presenting Parliament with a bill banning events with more than 1,000 people in attendance until August 31, 2020, did not help either.
Summer Well, held every summer for the past few years near Bucharest, was also rescheduled for next year, and so was Electric Castle, another festival due in Cluj in mid-July. Also in Cluj, another landmark event, Jazz in the Park, was cancelled over the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who have purchased tickets for this year’s festivals may choose to use them for the forthcoming editions, or to get a refund, where possible.
On the other hand, the 19th Transylvania International Film Festival, deferred because of the coronavirus containment measures introduced this spring, will be held between July 31 and August 9. TIFF comes with a summer edition with lots of outdoor screenings, holiday atmosphere and a programme adapted to the context. The screenings will be held in specially designed areas, with seats placed a safe distance from one another.
(translated by: Ana-Maria Popescu)