Romania orders price freeze on energy, fuel as emergency measures to respond to coronavirus crisis

Foto: Inquam Photos/ Octav Ganea

Romania’s government has announced a price freeze on energy and gas to offset the economic effects of the coronavirus outbreak that has disrupted everyday life and hit the economy hard.

Interior Minister Marcel Vela said electricity, heat, gas, water and fuel prices would not be increased during the 30-day state of emergency,

“They can’t be hiked more than they are today. They can only fall,” Vela said late Sunday.

 President Klaus Iohannis decreed a 30-day state of emergency on March 16 in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has now sickened 1,815 people and led to 43 deaths in Romania.

Under a state of emergency, authorities can order a price freeze on foods and other basic commodities and also limit people’s movements as has happened in recent days under a strict lockdown.

“They are tough measures, maybe the toughest Romania has had for decades” Vela said Sunday evening, announcing new measures.

People have been told to stay at home and allowed out only for a handful of reasons such as to buy basic necessities, go to work or get medical treatment.

The crisis has dented the economy with businesses forced to shut or suspend their activity as restaurants, hotels, shops have closed and sporting activities and concerts have been canceled.  Up to one million jobs may be affected by the crisis, industry groups say.

“It’s a tough moment for us. It’s hard to restrict some rights and for (individual) freedoms to depend on a statement,” Vela said referring to forms Romanians have to fill in when they leave home.

“But if we don’t respect them, it can lead to tragedy.”

“We will lift or relax (these measures) when we are convinced that the spread of this terrible virus has been slowed down.”

Interior Ministry official Bogdan Despescu said 270,000 people had entered Romania since the outbreak started in late February, of which 228,000 were Romanian citizens. Of those, 57,000 were people who had traveled  to Italy, Europe’s worst-hit country by the coronavirus pandemic.

With flights were suspended to and from Italy, Spain and elsewhere, just 12,300 Romanians and 5,300 Romanians entered Romania on Saturday, he said.

So far 33,000 people have been fined a total of 46 million lei for not respecting rules during the lockdown.

Authorities are pressing charges against 200 people for lying or concealing information about contracting COVID-19 or coming into contact with people who have the virus.


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