Covid-19 impact and responses: Romania

Updated on: 12 January, 2022

What’s the current situation?

General information

There has been a relatively stable situation in regard to the number of daily COVID-19 cases in December 2021, but an increase has been noticed in early January which is mostly related to the new Omicron variant, thus marking the early stages of a new wave of infections in Romania[1].

As of 12 January 2022, the total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Romania has reached 1,866,102. Out of the total cases of confirmed infections with Covid-19, there were 1,765,175 cases recovered, while 59,114 were declared deceased. 37,945 cases are active at the moment. The fourth wave has been the most severe of all infection waves in the COVID-19 pandemic (10th August to 20th October).

Although the fourth wave was far more severe than previous waves, the Romanian government took a more relaxed approach, resisting to close the economy even partially in any way. The Government chose to impose a digital green certificate requirement for some activities. Schools remained open regardless of the serious epidemiological situation, these would only close if at least half of its personnel and students were found infected, or at the directors’ request. In cities with an incidence rate of over 6/1,000, face masks were required in outdoor areas, while a night curfew was imposed. Vaccinated people weren’t affected this time by the curfew, which was applied between 20:00 and 5:00, and unvaccinated people were required to stay home and not go out for unessential tasks.

All of Romania is currently in the COVID-19 “green zone”, with an incidence of less than 1 per thousand inhabitants in all counties. Ahead of the holiday season, the government tightened travel restrictions, requiring negative COVID-19 tests and quarantining unvaccinated travellers. Passenger locator forms were also introduced from 20 December.

The vaccination rate, although progressing better than in the summer period, is still quite low, as only 41% of the population is fully vaccinated, with 11% also receiving the booster dose. Romania ranks among the country with the lowest vaccination rate in Europe second to last in Europe on the cumulative uptake of at least two vaccine doses among adults older than 18 according to the Covid-19 vaccine tracker of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.

Economic context:

In economic and financial terms, Romania remains extremely resilient, posting growth for 5 consecutive quarters since Q3 2020, with an overall increase of more than 7% expected to be announced for 2021, as 2022 will also be a good year, with a GDP growth between 4.5-5% being forecasted. Net exports, by contrast, were significantly affected, reflecting weak external demand and supply chain disruptions.

Moreover, consumption has been robust in the first 11 months of 2021, recording a 10.5% year-on-year increase, a trend that should remain constant in the short and medium-term, despite any potential new restrictions which may be imposed in order to tackle the spread of the Omicron variant.

However, the Romanian economy has also been impacted by the inflationary wave which has been observed all around Europe, reaching a year-on-year level of 7.8% in November, while the gas & energy prices recorded a year-on-year increase of almost 50%, as a price cap has been set by the Government during the winter period in order to halt this trend.

The monetary policy rate has been increased by 50 bp during the last two extraordinary sessions of the National Bank of Romania to 1.75% and most analysts expect it to reach a level of around 3% by the end of 2022, as inflation will remain at high levels for at least 6 more months.

The political situation

Romania faced political deadlock in October, following a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister. After several attempts, a new Prime Minister (General Nicolae Ciuca) was appointed on the 22nd of November by President Klaus Iohannis.  


The situation with factory production

Romania’s industrial production volume grew by 0.9 per cent year-on-year in January 2021, following a 1.6 per cent rise in the previous month. It was the fourth consecutive month of increase in industrial output, during the coronavirus pandemic. On a monthly basis, the industrial output showed no growth in January 2021, after a 0.9 per cent gain in December 2020.

The textile industry in Romania has been affected since the start of the pandemic in China, with delays in providing raw materials, as China was the main supplier for accessories and materials. Once the factories in China were closed, many brands/retailers moved the production to Turkey.

The COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact on the textile industry. During the state of emergency, a stagnation in production was noted and about 30% of the export capacity of factories were closed. The analyses showed a decrease in orders by over 40% compared to the previous year and at the same time provides for a decrease in production capacity through layoffs of approximately 30% of the factories.

Even after almost 2 years of the pandemic, many of the manufacturers are still trying to meet the challenges posed by the pandemic, including unknown order status, unavailability of raw supplies, and increased requirements for worker safety. Factories are scrambling to stay afloat in the face of the epidemic, and this will be impacted by how long it lasts. Publicly, collective dismissals and industrial bankruptcies aren’t mentioned, but experts say tiny firms are seeing mass layoffs and closures.

Factories have not been specifically asked to stop production, but they need to continue to monitor and follow advice and guidance from relevant authorities such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the Ministry of Health (MH guidance), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MAE guidance), the National Institute for Public Health (NIPH guidance) and the government (government guidance). The factories could keep up with their work if they have still valid orders and no workers have been infected. Obstacles to the free movement of goods affected supply chains, but Romania is working on transport corridors and has largely abolished quarantine regulations for truck drivers. Truck drivers are obliged to carry protective equipment with them.

[1] DIgi 24 (2020), “Ce spune rata șomajului din România despre starea economiei”

[2] OECD (2020), “OECD Economic Outlook”

[3] Statista (2020), “Consequences of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on company activities in Romania in 2020”

What are the government policies to support local businesses?

The Romanian government has attempted to mitigate the effects of the pandemic with the following measures:

  • The Romanian National Bank cut the key interest rate by 0.5 percentage points at the end of March and by 0.25 percentage points to 1.75% on 2 June 2020. The main purpose was to create liquidity for financial institutions and to announce the purchase of government bonds on the secondary market.
  • A short-term debt repayment allowance was introduced for companies and individuals negatively affected by the pandemic. Consequently, the legislature introduced a relaxation of macro prudential regulation for credit institutions.
  • A fiscal package for wage subsidies for temporarily laid-off employees and increased spending on medical equipment, amounting to about 1.2% of GDP (part of which was financed with EU funds).
  • Tax deferrals, government loan guarantees with subsidised interest rates for small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs), and the extension of payment periods for utilities and rent. These measures mainly targeted the impact of the lockdown, although there is a lack of confidence that the impact will reach vulnerable people, especially those working in the informal sector[1]
  • The government also launched a fiscal package of over €1 billion in EU grants for Romanian businesses affected by the pandemic[2]. Measures to sustain the payment of technical unemployment, for employees sent into technical unemployment due to the coronavirus crisis, from the Labor Ministry’s budget, through the Workforce Occupancy Agency – ANOFM. All employers who reduced or interrupted their activity, totally or partially, as a result of the effects of the coronavirus epidemic, but only during the state of emergency, could apply to receive the state aid for the payment of the employees in technical unemployment. Employees received a compensation of 75% of the basic salary corresponding to the workplace occupied, but not more than 75% of the average gross wage forecasted for 2020 – respectively 5,429 lei, according to Law no. 6/2020 of the state social insurance budget for 2020.

Besides technical measures implemented during 2020- until July 2021, there were no other measures implemented as support for the companies affected by the Covid-19 crisis.

Technical unemployment benefits are no longer paid from the state budget as of 1 July 2021, and employers who wish to apply the technical unemployment measure will have to pay for it from their own budgets. This facility has been successively extended since the beginning of the pandemic, and the last deadline for the possibility to benefit from this support from the state for areas restricted due to the pandemic was 30th of June 2021, according to Government Emergency Ordinance no. 211/2020.

[1] OECD (2020), “OECD Economic Outlook”

[2] Romania Journal (2020), “Up To 1 Bln. EUR COVID Scheme Funds For Pandemic Affected Romanian Businesses”

What are the government policies and regulations of to protect employees – the workers?

All employers need to assess the risks faced by their employees and visitors and implement measures to mitigate those risks, paying particular attention to vulnerable staff (such as those who are pregnant, with impaired immunity, on secondment or working away from home). Employers should inform their employees and, where relevant, recognized unions about their proposed measures.

The legislative changes that took place within the month of March 2020 brought a lot of uncertainty to the private sector when they are faced with making new business decisions.

Government regulations to protect employees were adopted on two levels. The first layer of measures was designed to support businesses in ensuring workers’ income regardless of the financial losses of the businesses. The second layer is comprised of the H&S preventive measures issued by the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry for Workers regarding safety in the workplace.

Technical unemployment benefits are no longer paid from the state budget as of 1 July 2021, and employers who wish to apply the technical unemployment measure will have to pay for it from their own budgets.

This facility has been successively extended since the beginning of the pandemic, and the last deadline for the possibility to benefit from this support from the state for areas restricted due to the pandemic was 30th of June 2021, according to a Government Emergency Ordinance no. 211/2020.

The latest recommendations from the Centre for Supervision and Control of Transmissible Diseases are:

  • The preventive measures considered as most effective include frequent hygiene of the hands with hydro-alcoholic substances through friction if hands are not visibly dirty, or with water and soap if the hands are dirty; avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth; practice respiratory hygiene by coughing or sneezing in the elbow, or use napkin/tissues and throw it away immediately; maintain the social distance of minimum 1.5 meter from the persons with respiratory diseases.
  • PPE must be used based on exposure risk (as ex. type of activity) and based on the dynamic of transmitting the pathogen agent (ex. contact, drops or air). The overall use of PPE will have a supplementary impact on the lack of supplies of PPE.

Up-date on legal minimum wages

According to Government Decision No. 1071/2021, from January 2022 the new minimum wage guaranteed in payment will be RON 2.550.

The new level for the general gross minimum wage for a full-time employee was set by the Government at 2.550 RON (approximately Euro 515) starting 1 January 2022. Government Decision No. 1071/2021 does not include provisions on a higher minimum wage for positions that require higher education, so this category of employees who benefited from a different minimum wage until 31 December 2021, will receive in 2022, the same minimum wage as employees who have positions that do not require higher education. The gross minimum wage for employees in the construction sector will remain the same as in 2021 at 3.000 RON (approximately Euro 606).

The government has passed prescriptive law due in 2024, but the countdown will start on January 1, 2022. The measure is a transitional measure, due to the consideration that the minimum wage in Romania is a strict element of social protection, as provided for in the Romanian Constitution, but unfortunately, it has turned into a phenomenon at the labour market level, a phenomenon of effective wages. As per the statement of the Public Finance Minister, the government will consider helping entrepreneurs during this transition period so that the staff are qualified. Therefore, employees who had the minimum wage by January 1, 2022, will no longer be able to pay the minimum wage after the next two years, and employers will pay them an income higher than its value for two years from January 1, 2022. However, the waiting horizon is long, and no one guarantees employees that they will have the same position after 2 years, but also not the amount of the increase if any.

What are local stakeholders doing to lobby their government?

Employers’ Federation of Textiles, Clothing and Leather (FEPAIUS) has made a series of recommendations for authorities to support the factories in the textile industry:

  • Postponing the payment of taxes on wages or even reducing them. Tax exemption and salary contributions for a period of 3 months for those who will be employed during this period in this industry.
  • Rescheduling rates from all banks operating in Romania, especially for loans for investments in this industry.
  • Extension of the period of technical unemployment from 30 to min. 90 days/
  • Reactivating the technical unemployment procedure with funds from the unemployment aid that is currently in surplus would be to maintain the labour force. 
  • For situations of incapacity to work due to the current coronavirus crisis, the settlement of medical leave should be made entirely by the state without the employer being forced to bear the first five days of each initial leave
  • Flexibility to compensate for additional work in the sense of allowing free days in advance without the employee’s agreement and for longer periods of time. At this moment it is possible only to reduce the work schedule from 5 days to 4 days per week, by min. 30 consecutive days. In the case of needing to stop activity, the free days can eventually be compensated with extra work that will be required to fulfil the orders.
  • Reactivating the law whereby Eximbank removes 50% of exporters’ interest.
  • The pandemic should be considered a force majeure. In the case of total closure of company activity, it should be considered a case of force majeure in relations with third parties.

What are local organisations doing to support and protect workers?

  • On 18 March 2020, a multilateral working group involving the government and trade unions agreed a first plan of economic measures for the 30 days of the current state of emergency.
  • A consortium consisting of Concordia Employer Confederation, National Council of Small and Medium Private Enterprises in Romania, National Trade Union Block and the National Trade Union Confederation ‘Cartel Alfa’ has signed a joint statement regarding the economic and social crisis caused by COVID 19. They invite public authorities to ensure the right balance between preserving public health by reducing the spread of the virus and keeping economic activity as close to normal as possible.
  • National Trade Union Confederation ‘Cartel ALFA’ calls for urgent measures to manage the economic and social effects of this unprecedented situation. They request the government to inform and consult the social partners in a timely and appropriate manner, so that they can contribute to guaranteeing the interests of the workers, especially when ad hoc social measures are adopted and considering economic issues that may arise from this crisis. Any measure that does not take into account the interests of workers will lead to the deepening and prolongation of the effects of this unprecedented crisis.
  • Many non-profit organisations, associations, foundations or even individuals in Romania have been raising funds for the local healthcare system or vulnerable communities in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. Most are raising money for protective equipment or other materials the healthcare workers need to fight the pandemic, but some have even bigger plans, such as building a modular hospital for coronavirus patients.
  • Trade unions took part in a government working group which agreed workers will continue receiving two-thirds of their normal wage if they cannot work or are temporarily laid off.

What have been the responses and requests of business associations to support the industry?

  • Employers’ Federation of Textiles, Clothing and Leather (FEPAIUS) has analyzed the negative impact of Covid 19 and has made a series of recommendations for authorities to support the factories in the textile, clothing, leather and footwear industry (see above). The measures adopted for the private sector are applicable for the textile industry, without exemption.
  • Some of the biggest business organizations in Romania and hundreds of local investors, entrepreneurs and managers have initiated a ‘Call for Saving the Economy’ asking the state authorities for an economic stimulus package worth EUR 30 billion, the equivalent of 15% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). They warn that the local economy could collapse in the absence of massive state involvement. The appeal is signed, among others, by Romanian Business Leaders (RBL), the National Council of SMEs, the German, Dutch and Belgian chambers of commerce, and business associations in the tourism, hospitality, transports sectors, as well as over 100 of local entrepreneurs and managers. The whole document (in Romanian) is available on the blog of local entrepreneur Marius Ghenea.
  • The Concordia Employers’ Confederation and the Foreign Investors Council, two of the biggest business organizations in Romania, have proposed to the government a set of over 100 urgent measures that would help the business environment overcome this critical moment and protect the consumers from the indirect effects of the coronavirus pandemic. They believe that state support measures are needed to prevent blockages or bankruptcies of otherwise healthy sectors or companies, and the state itself needs resources. The whole document (in Romanian) is available here.

What are international brands doing to support suppliers and protect workers?

Brands and retailers are being called on to endorse priorities for action to support the garment industry and protect workers from the impacts of the global crisis.

As retailers have re-closed shops around the world again since the beginning of 2021, garment factories have faced a second round of cancellation/delays of orders. This is an alarming rate with devastating impacts for thousands of garment workers. Urgent action is needed to protect their livelihoods during the shutdown and beyond.

The statement of priorities and commitments, COVID-19: Action in the Global Garment Industry, reflects a broad consensus on joint action to protect garment workers’ income, health and employment and help manufacturers survive the economic disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as to improve social protection for garment workers for the long term.

Organisations that endorse the statement commit to working with governments and financial institutions to mobilize sufficient funding to enable manufacturers to ensure business continuity including payment of wages, as well as income-support and job-retention schemes to address the impact of the crisis.

Relevant links for more information

Ministry of Health
Ministry of Labour
Guidance to businesses in Romania
Emergency Ordinance 29/2020
Decision no. 217/2020 for the application of the provisions of Law no. 19/2020 on granting parents free days for the supervision of children, in the situation of temporary closure of the educational establishments
Emergency Ordinance no. 29/2020 regarding some economic and fiscal-budgetary measures
The guidance for use of PPE measures can be found here
15 recommendations on social behavior responsible for preventing the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19)
Federation of Employers of Textiles, Clothing and Leather (FEPAIUS)
Covid-19 Romanian Economic Impact Monitor