Covid-19 impact and responses: Romania

Updated on: 1 August, 2021

What’s the current situation?

General information

The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Romania has reached 1,083,841 as announced on Saturday, 1st of August 2021. Out of the total cases of confirmed infections with Covid-19, there were 1,047,767 cases recovered, while 34,286 were declared deceased. There are 51 persons in the emergency care, while a total of 8,704,268 RT-PCR tests and 1,855,687 of quick tests were made up to date.

Romania as a country is currently in the COVID-19 “green zone”, with an incidence of less than 1.5 per thousand inhabitants in all counties. Several relaxation measures have so far been launched across the country, which have come in time in line with the decline in the number of recorded cases of the corona virus. From 1 August 2021, new measures came into force to relax certain restrictions, particularly for outdoor events, but the wearing of protective masks indoors was not abolished.

The relaxation measures established in accordance with the provisions of Government Decision 730/2021 are maintained where the incidence is between 2 and 3 per thousand. The new measures which are if the incidence is below 2 per thousand, and if the incidence reaches between 2 and 3 per thousand it will go back to the situation prior to 1st of August 2021. If the incidence goes above 3 per thousand, the measures will be harshened, and measures applied, locally, according to incidence, in the localities.

COVID-19 vaccination in Romania started on 27 December 2020. The vaccination was declared free of charge and non-mandatory. As of March 2021, three types of vaccines (Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford/ Astra Zeneca) were authorized to be used in Romania. Romania hit the threshold of 5 million people vaccinated with at least one dose on July 31. The Government had planned to reach this number by June.

By August 1, 5,005,436 people received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and 4,858,584 were fully vaccinated. Over the past 24 hours, 7,330 received a Covid-19 vaccine, and 4,540 received the first dose. After more than 100,000 people were vaccinated daily at the beginning of May, the daily number dropped to about 10,000 or less in recent weeks.

Romania is second to last in Europe on the cumulative uptake of at least one vaccine dose among adults older than 18, with 31.5% of the population having received at least one dose, according to the Covid-19 vaccine tracker of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control

Today, Romania’s economy is showing good signs of recovery and is projected to grow at around 7 percent in 2021, making it one of the few EU economies expected to reach pre-pandemic growth levels this year. This is very promising. Yet the road ahead remains highly uncertain, and Romania faces several important challenges.

The pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of Romania’s institutions to adverse shocks, exacerbated existing fiscal pressures, and widened gaps in healthcare, education, employment, and social protection.

Poverty increased significantly among the population in 2020, especially among vulnerable communities such as the Roma, and remains elevated in 2021 due to the triple-hit of the ongoing pandemic, poor agricultural yields, and declining remittance incomes.

Frontline workers, low-skilled and temporary workers, the self-employed, women, youth, and small businesses have all been disproportionately impacted by the crisis, including through lost salaries, jobs, and opportunities.

The pandemic has also highlighted deep-rooted inequalities. Jobs in the informal sector and critical income via remittances from abroad have been severely limited for communities that depend on them most, especially the Roma, the country’s most vulnerable group.

The situation with factory production

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

The COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact on the TCLF industry, predominantly affected by delays in the supply of raw materials since the beginning of the pandemic in China. After the factories in China were closed, many brands and retailers moved production to Turkey. During the state of emergency (16 March 2020 – 14 May 2020), a stagnation of production was registered, with a 30% reduction in the export capacity of factories. Since the beginning of the pandemic, a decrease in orders of more than 40% compared to the previous year was registered, at the same time there was a decrease in production capacity due to layoffs in about 30% of factories.

According to the Federation of Employers of Textiles, Clothing and Leather (FEPAIUS), the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were reflected on several levels. There were difficulties in the supply of raw materials and accessories both due to the decrease in transport between Romania and Italy, China, and due to the cessation of activity of many Italian manufacturers, while Romania’s exports to Italy amount to 4.7 billion RON.

The immediate negative impact of the pandemic is the increase in the unemployment rate to 5.1% in November, compared to the January 2020 rate of 3.7%. The current unemployment rate is a setback, equal to what it was in the spring of 2016. One positive note is that the increase in the unemployment rate is slowing. It appears that more men are unemployed than women.[1]A peak in job insecurity was reached during the lockdowns, when about 15% of employment contracts were suspended and 4% were terminated[2].

Nearly 20% of businesses in Romania were forced to either reduce or cease operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Only 19% of companies in Romania did not suspend their activity and had money to pay salaries. Of the companies still active, 10% were not able to pay their employees[3].

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.

Even after 18 months of the pandemic, the factories are struggling to keep up with the difficult times, whether uncertain status of orders, lack of raw materials or higher standards for the safety of the workers. Under the pandemic circumstances, factories are struggling to keep business going and this will be affected by the duration of the situation. Collective dismals and factory bankruptcies are not communicated as a specific issue publicly, but the experts reports that small factories faced with many workers dismissals and factories closure.

[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.

[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 comprised of the H&S preventive measures issued by Ministry of Labour and 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 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.

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.

No specific information on specific actions undertaken by the brands to support suppliers and protect workers were reported.

As retailers have re-closed shops around the world again since the beginning of 2021, garment factories have faced second round of cancelation/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