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Quarantined in a Moldovan village – the paradox of measures imposed by authorities

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The Republic of Moldova registered, according to the most updated information from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Protection, 591 confirmed cases, 190 suspected cases and 9 deaths because of COVID-19. The cases are spread all over the country, but most of cases are concentrated in 3 risk areas – Chisinau, which includes 39% of the cases of infection, Stefan Voda – 14% of cases and Soroca – 12% of all cases.

As Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) reported, 18 971 persons are isolated at home and 5 632 persons were verified regarding the way they are isolated.

At the same time, there are several cities and villages in Moldova where the local authorities have imposed partial or full lockdown due to the registered deaths related to coronavirus outbreaks. While the Government never clearly reported on what happens in such localities, some local authority representatives and residents started to talk about the quarantine situation.

They say that police patrol cars were placed at the entrance and exit of localities and no one can leave or enter the village or city, without a good reason. The public transportation and all public and private entities, except medical offices, post offices and groceries stores, stopped their activity.

The paradox of Balceana

People of Balceana village, Hancesti district, one of the first villages from Moldova where the lockdown was installed, told ZdG that things have changed a lot since the first day of lockdown. At the moment, all their activities are forbidden: they can no longer receive medicine packages from their relatives and they cannot perform their farming activities related to cultivating crops – one of their main source of obtaining food throughout the year.

Moreover, in order to be able to leave or enter the village, to move or pick up packages from the improvised station when entering the village, people must hold and present to the police officers a permit issued by the City Hall. However, the mayor of the village said that he received the prohibition to issue such permits for local people from the MIA officials.

“I have the indication that no permit is issued to any person, because we are quarantined. Only sick people leave the village with an ambulance and only those who are recovered and healthy, holding a medical certificate from a doctor, can enter the village.”

The mayor of Balceana village said that the situation in which people got in is a “terrible one” and that he hardly manages to cope with the complaints coming from villagers. Some villagers must pay back their bank loans. For that they would need to continue to work their lands, which they are not allowed to do due to not holding permits issued by mayor. The mayor is not allowed by authorities to issue such permits.

The paradox exists while the quarantine instructions allow short trips for acquiring food, medicines, for obtaining medical assistance, going to the funeral of relatives or farming activities. The situation got so confusing, that the officers do not allow people to perform even officially permitted activities without the authorisation that is impossible to be obtained.

The MIA response

The officials of the MIA claimed that an internal service investigation was initiated after the declarations were published by ZdG. Secretary of State of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Mariana Grama, denied that the situation is so serious, stating that people do have access to medicines and food, while restrictions are imposed because people do not follow precautionary measures.

“The permit is required for those who have to work lands. The lands are on the hills, outside the locality. […] The mayor has to confirm that a person owns a land parcel outside the territory of Balceana village and that he allows him to perform agricultural activities,” mentioned Grama.

The permits, according to the official, are not issued for persons that want to go to the doctor, as they declare one thing and go somewhere else, that being proved by the police monitoring system in several cases, reported Mariana Grama for ZdG. “People from the village want to go to other localities to buy products, they want to go to the district market, to the bank, to the capital city and I told the mayor that nobody has the right to leave the village, this is what quarantine regime means,” she added.

“I understand, human rights and fundamental freedoms are restricted during state of emergency, but this is to ensure the security of other citizens as well, who are outside the quarantine zone.”

Blocked roads in Cocieri and Corjova

Beside the fact police patrol cars were placed at the entrance of every quarantined village, in Cocieri and Corjova – two villages located in Transnistria – a part of the roads connecting them with other regions were blocked, noted the Promo-LEX association in a press release.

Source: Promo-LEX association

The association mentioned that, on the main roads, the customs officers blocked the access, while on the adjacent roads, concrete blocks  or other artificially created impediments to prevent circulation were created. “Because of access prohibition, several categories of people who imperatively need to circulate are affected: doctors and pharmacists, farmers, but also people who work in state institutions. In addition, the consequences of blocking the roads are also affecting the inhabitants of the nearby villages,” is mentioned in the press release.

Blocked salaries of teachers from Transnistria

There are eight schools with teaching in Romanian in the Transnistrian region, which are directly financed from the public budget of the Republic of Moldova.

One of the serious challenges for the employees of these schools is that there are no ATMs in the region that would allow people to withdraw cash from the bank cards issued by Moldovan banks. These cards are not recognized in Transnistria. Usually, teachers go to the Moldovan side, withdraw cash from the ATMs and then exchange it in Transnistrian rubles.
“We got in touch with the Reintegration Bureau and we hope to be able pass on the right side of the Dniester to withdraw our salaries, otherwise teachers will run out of money,” said Ion Iovcev, the director of one of these schools.

Moreover, lack of money could lead to complete isolation. The director says that if, this month, the teachers are not be able to pay for internet services, they will not be able carry out the process of remote teaching.

Funerals with high risk of contagion

One of the reasons people get infected with COVID-19 and die in Moldova is their hospitalisation in the same section with confirmed or suspected patients. That was the case of a woman from Stefan-Voda district who was sent home in isolation after being hospitalised together with COVID-19 patients. “She died in quarantine at home, but it’s known that she was in contact with COVID-19 patients,” explained the mayor of the village she is from.

The mayor claimed that for seven hours, since the woman had died, no one came to test her for confirmation or rejection of the virus and that the woman was in contact with other 26 persons. The mayor also mentioned that there is no special protective equipment in the locality for persons to be involved in the process of burial of the woman. Therefore, even more people risk to get infected.

Photo: moldova.org

Reintegration

Coronavirus in Transnistria: blocked roads, self-isolation, restricted access to banking services and medicines are still on

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The state of emergency in Transnistria was declared on March 17, being extended twice. The last decision said it would last until June 15INFOTAG News Agency informed.

About 2 weeks ago, some restrictions began to be lifted in the region – shopping malls, construction markets and grocery stores were reopened. Thus, a record number of COVID-19 reported cases followed, the total number of confirmed cases reaching 1003, according to the data provided by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Protection of Moldova (MHLSP).

One of the biggest contagion epicentres is located at the psycho-neurological boarding school from Bender – more than 160 people were infected there.

No transport available

In the context of the pandemic crisis, an imperative transportation problem was discussed by the Moldovan and Transnistrian officials: the residents of 4 villages from the left bank of the Dniester have to use a ferry in order to reach the other side. That is because the road, connecting the rural areas with the mainland Moldova, runs through a Transnistrian territory that has been blocked by illegal border checkpoints and barriers installed by separatists.

See also: A not working peacekeeping mechanism? When the Moldovan side requests, the Transnistrian one refuses

“A separate topic of discussion was the situation of the Moldovan villages of Molovata Noua, Vasilievca, Cocieri and Roghi on the left (eastern) bank of the Dniester River. They have found themselves isolated from the Republic of Moldova after the Transnistrian authorities introduced a state of emergency in the region,” announced President Igor Dodon after he lately met with the head of Dubasari district, Grigore Filipov.

It was decided that the ferry will make additional daily trips to meet the needs of the population and economic agents from the region, as a temporary solution.

Moldova’s Special Representative for Transnistria negotiations, Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration, Cristina Lesnic, believes that the nature of the dialog between Chisinau and Tiraspol has changed during the pandemic period.

“After the beginning of the pandemic crisis and the state of emergency declaration in Moldova, the region was isolated. The Moldovan authorities’ decisions should apply to the entire territory, but Transnistria has adopted its own measures. […] The self-isolation of the Transnistrian region on the pretext of the pandemic began in mid-April, and now it is extended till June 15. The situation is connected to a restricted access both for the economic agents and officials from Moldova. Let me remind you that there are 320 thousand Moldovans living in the region, who are deprived of access to services on the right bank of the Dniester.”

In a meeting with foreign diplomats and international organisation representatives accredited in Moldova, Cristina Lesnic talked about the  anti-crisis management possibilities created for businesses and the population of Transnistria since the beginning of the state of emergency, including facilitating the import of medicines and foodstuffs into the Transnistrian region, as well as returning home of Transnistrian residents from foreign countries.

Source: gov.md

On the other hand, more accusations against Moldovan authorities arrived, referring to the fact that the Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration would not be willing to help to repatriate the inhabitants of the separatist region. That is while the legal public authorities of Moldova are the only ones entitled to negotiate the organisation of international passenger transport with the authorities of foreign states, according to the Bureau for Reintegration Policies from Moldova.

No banking services

Another issue discussed during the common meetings is the access of the population of Transnistria to banking services: in case people from the region are clients of a Moldovan or international bank, they can’t withdraw money from the ATMs located on the Transnistrian territory, as well as they can’t use their credit cards to pay products and services in Transnistrian rubles.

While Transnistrian news portals blamed the Moldovan authorities of blocking the possibility to pay using international card on the Transnistrian territory, officials from Chisinau gave assurances that no discriminatory or exaggerated approaches are applied to the bank customers from the Transnistrian region. The National Bank of Moldova specified that payments using MasterCard and Visa cards in Transnistria are possible, but only if payments are made through the POS terminals of banks licensed in Moldova. As the local currency (Transnistrian rubles) is not internationally recognised, it was proposed to use the Moldovan leu as a mean of cash payment.

(Almost) no financial support

About 450 individual entrepreneurs from Dubasari district will receive financial compensation from the Transnistrian authorities, in order to overcome the negative consequences of the pandemic crisis. The total budget for compensation amounts 182 500 Transnistrian rubles (about 10 140 euros). When divided to 450 companies that should receive financial support, it turns out that each company will receive about 23 euros for two months in which they stopped their activity.

Photo: BIRN

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Lifting coronavirus restrictions in Moldova – risks and future costs

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Another 153 new cases of infection with the novel coronavirus were confirmed today in the Republic of Moldova, informed the Minister of Health, Labour and Social Protection (MHLSP). Altogether, the number of infected persons reached 8 251 cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

In the last week, there was a decrease in the number of confirmed cases by 11%, according to the specialists from the National Public Health Agency (NPHA). At the same time, the number of recovered cases increased by 5% as compared to the week before. Still, the cumulative incidence of cases reported in Moldova, when compared to other states, increased to 2 224 cases per one million population (21 out of 46 countries, according to statista.com), while the death rate increased from 67 deaths per one million population to 80 deaths per one million population.

While most of these numbers are interpreted positively by the Moldovan authorities, there are still restrictions on which the pandemic evolution depends. In case they are lifted to soon, the next wave of infection cases could begin. If they are kept for too long, a lot of businesses and family budgets would suffer. Therefore, a lot of future risks and costs depend on the next steps taken by officials.

Unbalanced restrictions’ lifting

The last decision of the National Extraordinary Public Health Commission lifted certain restrictions imposed during the state of emergency in the country. For example, it was decided to open all open-air markets in the country, including the ones from big cities (Chisinau and Balti) starting June 1, relaunch the activity of the shopping centres, except for restaurants and entertainment units located inside – June 8, allow religious ceremonies, including meetings in public places for celebrating important religious holidays – June 5. Starting June 15, gyms and restaurant units will be reopened as well.

On the other hand, the Government of the Republic of Moldova decided to cancel this year high school graduation exams. “Given the exceptional circumstances, it was necessary to adopt some measures aimed at reducing the risk of contagion of middle school and high school graduates and teachers. The organisation of graduation exams involves a series of indoor activities and a large number of persons (high school graduation exams – about 40 000 people, the Baccalaureate exams about 20 000 people), which increases the risk of infection, even though the necessary protection measures would be followed,” said the Ministry of Education, Culture and Research (MECR).

The Parliament approved, on 21 May, a draft law on the cancellation of national graduation exams of the 2020 examination session.

Not everyone agreed with the taken decisions though. “As the markets open, where the congestion is very high, as the supermarkets worked during severe quarantine, in the same way, examinations could have been carried out with all the restrictions imposed to avoid the spread of the new type of coronavirus,” declared former Minister of Education, Corina Fusu, for ZdG.

“Many decisions on restrictions’ lifting have no logic. One of them would be the reopening of gyms with no access to the bathrooms or locker rooms. […] Strategies were lacking in Moldova. Instead, we enjoyed daily statistics, not well-determined actions. We have paid for it, both with the health and lives of people, as well as with a downgraded economy, “ said the WHO expert and former Minister of Health, Ala Nemerenco. The former dignitary argued that Moldova is way behind other European countries when it comes to the pandemic evolution, however the restrictions are lifted at the same time.

“The number of new cases, the serious or critical cases is still very high. At the same time, the number of deaths is high. In other European countries people are more educated in this regard. They know what shift work means and what sanitary hygiene means. Our people still don’t know anything about this. I still argue that the Rahmanish Easter (religious holiday postponed for the beginning of June in Moldova) should be cancelled. I am also against the markets’ reopening,” head of the NPHA, Nicolae Furtuna, claimed for ZdG.

Restrictions are not for everyone

The opposition MP, Sergiu Litvinenco, filed a complaint with the Ministry of Internal Affairs, to fine President Igor Dodon because he didn’t comply with the rules imposed during the pandemic period. First, the president expressed a superficial and uninformed opinion regarding the novel coronavirus, saying it is not more than a flu that affects merely older people.

Moreover, Dodon recently posted several photos and videos on social media where it can be observed that meetings with local public authorities, economic agents, citizens, including older people and children, were conducted without wearing a protective mask and  keeping social distance, especially indoors.

“The law is the same for everyone and must be equally applied. Igor Dodon must be punished for the obvious violation of the mandatory rules on prevention and control measures of epidemic diseases!”

Nevertheless, Minister of Internal Affairs, Pavel Voicu, declared that no deviation from rules were found. “We did not fine him because he has immunity. We have not seen any deviations from the Commission’s provisions so far,” he said.

COVID-19 is still here

Speaker of the Parliament, Zinaida Greceanii, signed a provision regarding self-isolation regime establishment for all members of the Parliament from May 22, as several persons in the legislature, including a MP, were tested positive for coronavirus previously.  All members and staff of the Parliament were tested and were asked to stay at home until the confirmation of negative results for COVID -19, as it was announced in a press release of the Moldovan Parliament.

Meanwhile, 1602 cases of infection (19,41% of total cases) have been confirmed among healthcare system employees, including 380 doctors, 20 pharmacists, 630 nurses, 84 janitors and 488 support staff.

The authorities desire to relaunch the economy of the country is understandable, as well as the opposition and experts’ reluctance regarding the speed and relevancy of restrictions’ lifting. However, taking into consideration the relatively low level of informing the population on how to correctly exit the restrictions’ period and the lack of a consistent strategy of authorities on how and when to reopen various activities, the future costs of the already taken decisions could be really painful.

Photo: Dreamstime.com

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Promo-LEX estimates: 19,02 million lei as failed expenses to be reported to the Central Electoral Commission by the political parties in 2019

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A report on political party financing in 2019, carried out by the Promo-LEX Association and published lately, revealed undeclared expenses amounting to about 19,02 million lei. Also, it announced one of the lowest level of financial reporting to the Central Electoral Commission (CEC).

As of May 7, 2020, only 19 political parties (43%) managed to submit their financial statement to the CEC in time, one faction submitted it with a delay and 26 political parties failed to submit any declaration at all. Therefore, Promo-LEX found the lowest rate of political parties’ annual reporting regarding their financial situation since 2014, according to the association’s notice.

“The Promo-LEX Association took into account the specificity of the state of emergency instituted in the Republic of Moldova.” However, the CEC did not have a proactive and transparent attitude in settling the issue and it didn’t remind the political parties of their reporting obligation under the given exceptional circumstances.

On the one hand, Promo-LEX mentioned the lack of transparency due to the absence of obligation to publish information on political party donors, and the vulnerabilities caused by hiding these data. On the other hand, the association highlighted the insufficient control and supervision of political parties’ sources of financing that was exercised by the CEC.

That happened despite the improvements in the legal framework on party financing made last year, such as reduction of the minimum amount of authorised donations from natural and legal persons, allowing donations from  nationals residing abroad, etc. “Despite these substantial legislative improvements, there are unsettled legislative loopholes that arise our concern,” is mentioned in the report.

In 2019, 16 political parties from Moldova reported a total amount of 70 million lei as revenues and 94 million lei as expenses. Other 4 parties that submitted their financial statements did not indicate any revenues or expenses.

Moldovan political parties declared that the subsidies from the state budget represented the main source of their income in 2019 (39%), along with membership fees (32%), donations from individuals (18%), and donations from legal entities (11%).

It was also found that 17 political parties organised at least 2936 promotional activities and events in 2019, including activities organised by charitable foundations. Such foundations as “EDELWEISS”, associated with Vladimir Plahotniuc and the Democratic Party of Moldova, “Din Suflet” Charity Foundation, associated with the Party of Socialists and President Igor Dodon, and“For Orhei” Association, connected with the “Sor” Party, were reported as organising promotional activities. However, none of the political parties associated with the charitable entities mentioned above reported promotion expenses as being linked to charity activities.

In such a way, Promo-LEX estimated that 17 political parties failed to report a total amount of 19,02 million lei (20% more than actually reported), the most questionable category of expenses being that of public events, followed by the expenses for maintenance of headquarters and staff.

Source: Promo-LEX

The monitoring reports carried out by Promo-LEX between 2016 and 2019 showed large discrepancies between the financial statements reported to the CEC and the estimates of the association. The highest share of undeclared expenses was reached in 2017, when political parties from Moldova hid 42,75 million lei, that being 48% more that it was actually reported.

Photo: contaconect.ro

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