Prime Minister Ludovic Orban said in Parliament on Wednesday that the highest number of COVID infections in Romania was recorded in the period when the government did not have legislation on quarantine and isolation, following a Constitutional Court decision, which also overlapped with the gradual introduction of the relaxation measures.
“After the decision of the Constitutional Court [on quarantine and isolation – editor’s note] (…), we had about 5,000 people who were diagnosed with the novel coronavirus and we had no possibility to take any measures to prevent them for further communicating the virus (…) More than that, we couldn’t take any such quarantine and isolation measures in the case of all persons who were established by the epidemiological investigations as these persons’ contacts. This also overlapped with the relaxation measures that were gradually taken on the basis of the epidemiological risk assessment, which led to a significant increase in the number of cases (…) We had, let’s say, 500 cases per day, and we had more than 1,000 cases per day after the CCR decision and the relaxation measures overlapping with it,” said Ludovic Orban who presented in Parliament the report on the measures taken and envisaged by the Government to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, the organization of local elections and the opening of schools.
The Prime Minister added that with the adoption of the new Law on Quarantine and Isolation, Law 136/2020, the Government once again had at its disposal instruments that benefit all European countries.
“Think that in such a short period of time from the adoption of the law until today we have reached the situation of having over 10,000 people isolated institutionally. (…) Quarantine has also been ordered, and here I mean to people who have been in contact with infected people, as shown by the epidemiological investigations, and there were almost 40,000 Romanians who have been in contact with infected people. Also, isolation at home, treatment at home or in a space declared by the person infected for almost 15,000 Romanians. You realize, you can quantify, what would have happened if this law had not been adopted. Again, we would not have had any possibility to intervene,” he said, according the Agerpres.
According to him, based on the new provisions, the Government has taken extremely vigorous measures to increase the number of beds in intensive care units.
“We have had difficulties in opening new intensive care units. However, we have increased the number of beds in intensive care units by almost 130 and this process of continuous growth,” Orban said.
The head of the Executive also referred to the Government’s objective of increasing testing capacity.
“From 400-500 tests in the first phase of the epidemic, there are days when we can do 25,000 tests, and our goal is to further increase the testing capacity on Real Time PCR devices, testing done in spaces that ensure biosecurity and with personnel that have the necessary training to be able to make correct diagnoses,” Orban showed.
Gov’t has preserved jobs throughout the economic crisis triggered by the COVID-19 epidemic
The National Liberal Party (PNL) government has defended jobs throughout the economic crisis triggered by the COVID-19 epidemic, Prime Minister Ludovic Orban told a plenary sitting of Parliament on Wednesday.
“You have called me to unveil the measures related to the local elections, the start of schools and (…) to combat COVID. You have not called me to unveil the economic measures of the PNL government. Let me show you something: our government has defended jobs throughout the economic crisis triggered by the epidemic. Look at the data on REVISAL [the general record of employees]. I do not venture out-of-thin-air figures, ordinary lies, which have absolutely no basis in reality. The number of employees on employment contracts active as of August 3: 5,589,435, the number of employees on January 1, before the outbreak of the epidemic and the related economic crisis, (…) was 5,582,008. These are data taken from REVISAL, and I doubt that REVISAL lies. So there are 7,430 more employees,” Orban said.
He made the clarifications as Social Democratic Party (PSD) lawmakers reproached him of not mentioning economic measures in his speech.
“You are speaking of one million unemployed, but official data with of ANOFM [the National Employment Agency] as of today show 256,000, of which 76,000 unemployed are still drawing unemployment benefits (…) What I give you are official data that exist in databases,” the prime minister said.
PM Orban says wearing protective mask mandatory where in-person instruction resumes
Prime Minister Ludovic Orban said on Wednesday that wearing a protective mask will be mandatory in schools where in-person classes resume, and that all schools must be provided with disinfectants.
“The start of the school year involves a series of ongoing steps taken in each direction of action that we have established. We have set up an inter-ministerial committee that prepares the opening of the school year. (…) It is clear that each way of opening the school requires specific measures. Where schools resume normally the teaching staff, the students and the ancillary staff will have to wear masks. When possible, physical separation should be secured by acrylic glass sheets, which is to reduce physical contact. Also, all schools must be prepared with everything that means disinfectants, with disinfectants available to teachers and students alike,” Orban told a joint plenary sitting of Parliament.
The prime minister reiterated that the school year will start on September 14 and that it must be done by taking into account the epidemiological situation.
“That is why we have decided to open schools differently, based on the decisions taken in the first phase by the boards of directors, the school inspectorates, the public health directorates and the emergency management committees,” Orban said, pointing to three scenarios in which the schools will be opened – green, yellow and red – depending on the number of infections in the last 14 days – 1, between 1 and 3 and over 3.
He explained that the scenarios will allow schools to reopen for in-person instruction, alternative instruction, and where the epidemiological situation indicates a high epidemiological risk, classes will be provided remotely.
The prime minister also said that important resources have been allocated to increase the capacity to organise remote instruction.
He pointed out that, according to the assessment of the Ministry of Education, approximately 20% of schools are not connected to the Internet and indicated that together with the National Communication Agency ANCOM, mobile operators and local governments solutions will be found to ensure the Internet connection of all schools.
In addition, he pointed out that there will be free access to e-learning platforms for each school, with Google and Microsoft providing such solutions. Orban mentioned that the government has allocated from the reserve fund the money needed to purchase 250,000 tablets, showing that the winners of the auction will be known next week.
He specified that the government has made available from European funds 125 million euros for the settlement of expenses made by the local government for the purchase of additional laptops – 200,000 – and of other categories of expenses, for the purchase of healthcare protection, disinfectants and for the purchase of sanitary tanks.
He also pointed out that activities are organised to increase the teaching of online instruction skills.
He indicated that World Bank funds are used for the ongoing purchase of 74,000 laptops and webcams for 1,164 schools.
“We clearly need the co-operation of both local administrations and school managers, the involvement of teachers and parents in these efforts to ensure the best conditions for the start of the school year, in order to be able to ensure the right to education for every child in Romania,” added Orban.
“Elections possible without increasing the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus”
Prime Minister Ludovic Orban said on Wednesday that the local elections set for September 27 could be held without increasing the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus and underlined that conducting the vote depends on the fairness of candidates and their supporters.
“I believe that we can hold the elections without increasing the risk of spreading the virus. I believe that, first and foremost, the candidates are people who want to lead local communities and must set an example to the citizens. The fairness of the candidates and their supporters is very important, and how the elections are organised and especially the capacity not to increase the epidemiological risk during the elections will depend on them,” Orban told a joint plenary sitting of Parliament.
He added that September 27 was set after consultations between political leaders and had been voted on by Parliament.
“As long as September 27, the date of the local elections, has been elected by Parliament, the government has made every effort to organise the local elections under good circumstances. Think that the terms of office of the local officials have been extended once. We believe it is important to democracy, it is important to the local communities to choose their legitimate representatives and all the effort we make is to ensure the best conditions for electioneering and for the organisation of the actual voting. The Standing Electoral Authority, as well as the Ministry of Health and the Interior Ministry, are currently discussing a set of rules that must be followed for electioneering by the candidates and by supporters of the candidates,” said Orban.
According to Agerpres, the prime minister added that the rules to be introduced are designed to protect the health of the citizens with whom the candidates and their campaign staff interact during the election campaign, emphasising that the measures will certainly include wearing a protective mask.