It was coming for a while, and today it finally happened: The new record number of COVID-19 deaths reported in one day in Romania now stands at 237, smashing that previous value of 213, reported on December 8. Yes, it’s on a Tuesday, when the numbers tend to be higher because they reflect the tests done on Monday, which include postmortem ones or the retesting of hospitalized patients which may die soon after, and Monday is when they catch up on what piles up over the weekend, when there are fewer tests, but December 8 was also a Tuesday and, either way, the fact remains, and it’s somewhat surprising that it took so long.
On the other hand, the number of new cases reported today was low, only 2931, and what’s much more important is that some measures that may actually make more of a difference, albeit probably weeks from now, were announced. The timing is interesting, to not use a stronger term, but I’d say that the bigger reason behind this timing is that the Government is trying to prove what a bad job the previous Minister of Health, who was just sacked after quite a string of blunders, was doing and that things can quickly get back on track now that he’s out of the way, in order to counter the accusations that they got rid of him because he was bothering too much with what he was revealing and, even more so, planned to reveal, since he had announced making all purchases in the field of health public.
Speaking of said former Minister of Health, while I have serious issues with him because of his connections to the private health care sector and his quite clear plans to privatize even more of it, as well as his battle with Nicusor Dan for the position of candidate for the position of Mayor of Bucharest, which threatened to destroy several years of work and led to Nicusor Dan needing to make the deal he made with PNL, significantly weakening his position and also making him drop in the eyes of plenty of his supporters, he did indeed seem to be bothering more and more with what he was making public, and also by saying that the authorities had gotten creative with the numbers reported before the elections and, most recently, that the number of deaths was also being misreported, so it’s clear that all sides united to get rid of him before he hurt their interests even more. However, it’s also clear that he didn’t even make them work for it. When you decide to expose everyone’s dirt in such a manner, take everyone on in such a battle, you need to have everything planned to the letter, with contingency plans for contingency plans, and be extraordinarily careful with your every move, tread on eggshells, so you won’t offer any excuse, and he seemed to be doing anything but that, going from one blunder to another, as I already said, and seeming to have no clear plan or project to follow even for the current crisis. So his removal will most likely mark a return to “business as usual” and perhaps eliminate the chance of getting rid of some of the filth plaguing the field in the longer term, but it may well have quite a positive impact in the short term, and on the current crisis, especially if the others will try to make a point of it, as they already seem to be doing.
To finally get to those measures announced today, they have to do with vaccinations and, with one exception, I’d say they were long overdue. In theory a person could schedule themselves to be vaccinated by phone even now, but it didn’t really work, so one announcement is that they will make it work, but also that people will be able to go to a vaccination center in person and ask to be scheduled that way, so those who can’t, don’t know how or simply don’t want to create an account on the on-line platform, submitting their personal information and scheduling themselves that way, will finally have other methods available to them. And another thing that should have been happening all along but was only announced now is that hospitalized patients will be able to be vaccinated in any hospital, so those who are in non-COVID hospitals won’t need to wait to be released and then go to a vaccination center anymore.
In addition, the mobile vaccination centers, desperately needed in plenty of rural areas, plus of course by those who can’t leave their homes, are to properly start their activity tomorrow, and they’ll be using vaccines from Moderna, so they stopped trying to push the AstraZeneca one or, worse, what was a plan to use the Johnson & Johnson one for those centers. In fact, an additional order of vaccines from Pfizer pretty much ensures that pretty much no viral vector vaccines will be needed for the entire vaccination campaign if people don’t really want them. And family doctors should also finally actually start vaccinating their patients on a larger scale, that program having a rocky start so far, while the drive-through vaccination centers, which had also been announced for quite some time, should also become operational at the end of the week. And the first non-stop vaccination center just became operational, in Timisoara.
The one announced development I’m uncertain about, on the other hand, is that businesses will also be able to organize vaccination centers and vaccinate not only their own employees, but also those of other businesses they have ties to and their family members. This had also been discussed for some time, perhaps a change being that these businesses will be able to choose any of the approved vaccines, reflecting that change of policy I already mentioned above, but handing over such a responsibility to businesses strikes me as particularly unwise… Even more so when I now see that the possibility of those businesses creating the vaccination centers for places that don’t otherwise have any, where all those who live there are to be vaccinated, is also on the table! Talk about another sign of shifting ever more of the state’s duties, responsibilities and even rights onto the private sector! But that’s another discussion, I guess…