Public conversation via online social networks

Prime Minister Edi Rama’s public conversation with the citizens via the social networks:

Hello everyone!

First of all, it is vitally important for everyone to always remind of the fact that whole this endeavour, all this sacrifice and distress we are being through due to this unexpected situation, but, after all, what matters most is the result of our fight in the first line of fire, where the great battle to protect threatened and endangered lives at hospitals prepared to fight against this invisible enemy.

Currently, a total of 35 patients are hospitalized. This is a significantly low number considering the potential threat and the serious situation prevailing just few weeks ago. Only seven patients are in intensive care and I wholeheartedly wish them to successfully overcome this tough challenge and, first and foremost, no patient currently needs assisted breathing, which is the severest condition for any patient.

Yesterday, through the Ministry of Education, we have announced the decision on schools. Indeed, based on the assessment of the situation, but also taking notice of the situation in other countries and the decisions they all make during this period, we have reached the conclusion to reopen schools on May 18, allowing only state matura students to return to schools as they need a period of direct contact and communication with their teachers ahead of the state matura exam. Meanwhile, while other primary and secondary school students will pass school year, based on their grade point average they have achieved until the time schools were shut down due to the virus outbreak. We believe this was the most optimal solution to protect life, to protect the health of students and their families, but also to protect the investment of students and parents who, in our opinion, could not be wasted by cancelling the entire school year.

As of today, a wide category of workers have returned back to work. A considerable part of them, I would like to underline this fact, are individuals who have already received the first tranche of the wartime salary and will see the remaining payment transferred to their bank accounts soon, because we believe it is important for us to be all together and always stand by people whose income and jobs were affected due to this situation. In the meantime, we are keeping disbursing the wartime pay under the extended support package, but a problem concerning a total of 3000 applicants has emerged during the process, as these group of individuals have either have made a mistake while making the application, writing down an IBAN code that banks have failed to correlate with the applicant’s name. Banks have been called to forward the list of all persons undetectable by their systems, while direct contact will be established with these individuals to correct their applications by including the correct IBAN code. Likewise, the General Taxation Directorate will send a dedicated text message to a group of other 3000 individuals eligible to benefit under the first support package today or tomorrow, telling them that the wartime salary has been made available to them and if for some reason they have failed to file an application they will be asked to apply with the Directorate.

A relaxed movement and travel regime will be applied in the green zones, or low-risk areas, across the country. We are considering and waiting for the relevant proposal from the Technical Committee of Experts and the Ministry of Health to expand the green zones list. A number of other areas that we think they meet the required criteria to add to this list. There is a set of criteria to join the green zones list, designed to expand the space of movement in a considerable part of the country’s territory. On the other hand, several zones, starting with Tirana, currently remain fragile or high risk areas and therefore won’t be included in the green zones list for the time being. A conclusion will be reached by Friday and we will then announce the new green zones that will add to the previously declared low risk areas all over the country.

Basically, the reopening and the easing of the lockdown measures will go on cautiously. Just keep in mind what is going on around us, because while carefully listening to your complaints, keenly reading your questions, I often notice something that often makes me wonder whether certain individuals are fully aware that they live in this world. But in fact the whole world is like that. Earlier today, I came across a very strong statement by the director of German’s Public Health Institute, who underlined the fact that a growth rate in the chain of infection has been recorded since the reopening process was launched and called on authorities to reconsider the reopening measures. It was also earlier today when I saw the new eased lockdown regime announced by the Greek government and given that many Albanian citizens are currently in Greece and many others seeking to travel to the neighbouring country, I would like to remind each of them that driving from a prefecture to another is currently banned in Greece. When you call for the borders to reopen, I want you first to take a look into what is happening in other countries!

That’s why it would be wise to show a little more patience, remain calm and acknowledge the fact that the reopening process is underway taking advantage of the fact that we have been completely successful in the front of the war against this invisible enemy to date, but being at the same time fully aware of the great risk we face as we can waste the entire sacrifice we have already done in a single week if we completely ignore the rules as we further reopen. In this respect, I would like to say that at the end of this week and during the next week, we will conduct a deep assessment of the situation together with the experts and we will then discuss and explore with the Committee ways to further ease lockdown measures by reopening the air and land corridors. On May 11, we will ease the mandatory quarantine at hotels. However, next week we will have to carefully consider all elements needed to produce an accurate assessment of the situation in the country. The regime of restrictive measures regarding the air corridor will remain in place. A very narrow air corridor is currently open, yet it is not totally open to flights in general. So, it is of course quite normal that fewer seats are available when demand for flights is high. A significant part of the citizens are of course unhappy, yet the reopening process will continue gradually.

In the meantime we are also considering plans to relax restrictions and allow certain specific businesses to reopen, including beauty salons, barber shops and dental clinics. These services actually pose high risk since it would take just an infected customer for the infection chain to spread rapidly to the barber, hairdresser and the dentist, and every other customer. However, given that they abide by strict safety protocols, we may allow these small businesses to reopen, given also the high number of employees in these specific services. Then we should consider reopening of shopping malls first and restaurants and bars later.

There would be no cuts in pensions. There would be no cuts to public administration salaries. Someone has an idea and just floats that very idea as we live in a country where everyone can express their ideas. But, my and the government’s official position is that pensions and salaries will never be affected. Quite the contrary, if pensions and salaries are to be affected, this will happen because we will increase and not cut them. There will be no cuts to pensions and salaries for whatsoever reason. It is really an embarrassing and difficult situation when a statement made by someone is transformed then into a direct accusation against the government and me, speculating that I have a dangerous and criminal plan to cut pensions and salaries. There is no other option, but not to take them seriously and merely laugh at them.

Question via Facebook:

“What if take-along type bars reopen, without allowing customers to go inside…?”

To make it clear, reopening such businesses services is unquestionable until May 11 when we will make a full assessment of the situation. We will first assess the effects of the reopening process in the so-called green zones, which are set to further expand next week and more decisions will be made based on the situation only.

“I haven’t received the wartime salary, whereas the names of my colleagues have appeared on the system, urging them to apply…”

A small number of individuals encountering similar problem, whose number however is very small one since more than 60, 000 persons have already received the promised payment, the reason they face such a problem is because either the company they work for has made a mistake on the due application and therefore the names of the applicants and the names included on the list do not match; or this is because of some employees may hold dual employment appointments, (no two wartime salaries can be paid to such persons); or they are part of a group of around 3,000 people who have provided a wrong IBAN code. Banks have been asked to return the names of these persons and the General Taxation Directorate will send a message to each of them to provide the correct code. There is also another group of around 3,000 people, who belong to the category of individuals entitled to benefit the payment, yet they haven’t filed any application and they will all receive a message so that they can file the required application. They haven’t applied for their own reasons, yet we will contact them to provide them the payment they are entitled to.

“Mr. Prime Minister, you have repeatedly stated that no penalties or fines will be imposed on the citizens who have already violated the 90-day stay in Greece. I trust your word, still I would like you to post a document showing that.”

It is an agreement reached between the governments of both countries and it is a word and a promise kept by the Prime Minister of Greece from day one. It is not an official decision, because it would take a long bureaucratic procedure that would have to be forwarded to the Parliament then and so forth and so on, but it is an agreement of understanding.

“I started working in a watch and accessories store, which was shut down on March 13. The store I used to work for is classified a large business. I would like to know whether I am eligible to benefit the wartime salary.”

You are definitely entitled to benefit the 400,000 lek payment, provided that you are a registered employee and you pay the social insurance contributions.

“You have done an injustice, Mr. Prime Minister …”

Apparently I do a lot of injustice to many of you writing and posting on the social networks, yet I would like find out what kind of injustice you are talking about. However, I would beg you to refrain from speaking on “behalf of the people.” Each of us is an individual; each of you is an individual, whereas “people” is a much broader word. People can speak for themselves; people think and understand much better than anyone who individually claims to speak on behalf of the people. Speak about yourself and stop using people as a kind of clearance just to make comments that sometimes totally break any line of reasoning or any limitations of ethics.

“The wartime salary as you call it should be allocated to every family and not to those who pay the social contributions only.”

This is technically totally impossible and no country in the world would ever deliver funds to everyone without exception and everywhere they are, without first what the contribution of everyone is and without first establishing and assessing the damages and effects everyone has sustained. We have provided support for the families being treated under the social welfare scheme and their social assistance has actually doubled. They will receive three such payments. As of today, we have also provided support for around 60,000 people, whose payment has been already transferred to their bank accounts after having been directly affected by the first wave of the effects on the small business and they will all receive three wartime salaries, even though a significant number of them have already resumed work by now. We have also provided a cash support of $400 to around 176,000 individuals and around 70,000 of them have already received this payment. As many as 10,000 payments are disbursed every day to this category of beneficiaries. However, there is no scheme to provide such payments to others who turn out to be registered nowhere. That’s why you should carefully look at the steps you take. I do consider carefully any step I make, even I try to take five steps at once just to help and support each and every one of you as much as I can and I am confident we have constantly done whatever we can and we could.

“I am a businesswoman. I am entitled to benefit the wartime salary; however it has yet to be transferred to my bank account. What is going to happen? It is four of us needing support.”

I am sure you are one of the individuals who have provided a wrong IBAN code. If your payment has been approved, it means that the approval has been forwarded to the bank, including the IBAN code you have already provided. However, the bank is unable to identify the IBAN code and therefore the bank will return the list of all these persons, including you, whose payment has been approved, but not disbursed yet. The General Taxation Directorate will send you the request to correctly provide the IBAN code and then receive the due payment.

“My salary has been also approved since April 9, but it has yet to be transferred to my bank account.”

The payment order has been forwarded to the respective banks, which have found that the IBAN codes are wrong. These funds will be returned to the Treasury and will be again disbursed according to the IBAN code you will provide.

“Hello! I would like to ask what you would suggest us to do see our children, who are living with my parents in Permet for two months now.”

It is true, yet this is not a situation where you should ask me what to do, but look at what entire world is already doing. You can look in every direction you want to figure out this is not a matter of what I want, or because this is what the government wants people to do. If it were for me and the government, I would have never wished to find ourselves in such a situation and we wouldn’t have wished to cope with such a situation. But it fell on our shoulders to deal with such a tough and confusing situation prevailing all over the world and I believe we are accomplishing this duty with dignity. We may certainly have some shortcomings, yet we are doing it with dignity. Look at the outcome of our effort. Albania is the country with the lowest coronavirus-related fatality rate per million people, along with Bulgaria, in the entire continent. There is certainly a reason behind this. This is not because the invisible enemy has thought to spare Albanians, but this is because we acted and took the proper measures.

“Hello! I want an answer regarding extended families that include retired and elderly people, who need healthcare attention and have urgent medical needs. Whenever so, we seek taxi service that is not available due to the travel ban.”

The taxi services are not banned. Above all, another sort of service should be called in the event of a health emergency and that is the National Health Emergency Service. You should immediately dial the emergency line 127 and an ambulance will arrive right at your front door. Should the National Emergency Service, which has shown a super performance throughout this period answering to hundreds and thousands of calls, tells you to do this and that at home, because there is no need to go to the hospital, then you should heed its advice.

“Mr. Prime Minister, I am a resident in a village in Berat district and I should travel to Elbasan since I  need a doctor’s recommendation, because I am pregnant and such a document is required before I go to hospital.”

A whole section on the web-based e-albania platform is dedicated to issuing travel permits for health reasons. It just takes accessing the online platform, provide the health reason and the permit is issued immediately.

“Hello! I am an Elbasan resident. All my colleagues had their names on the list of beneficiaries under the second support package, while my name was not included.”

I don’t what is the reason that your name is not included on the list of the beneficiaries, because all the names of the individuals entitled to benefit the payment are determined according to the payrolls of every private company where these individuals work. If it is just a matter of a name, then you should access the General Taxation Directorate and a reply will be certainly provided.

“Is there a way for the Albanian citizens residents in Italy to return back to the neighbouring countries by our own cars?”

I understand quite well the stress and tormenting situation everyone is being through. I wouldn’t be a problem at all if it were for me or if it were to depend on what I wish for. But the current conditions and the exigencies of this war are as such and therefore a little bit more patience is needed. We will carefully analyze the situation during next week and by May 11, if of course the dynamics of the infections situation, the number of patients in hospitals would allow us then we may decide to further ease restrictive measures and reopen the land or air corridors. However, such a decision will be made should the dynamics of the situation allows us to do so. Whenever such important decisions are made and publicly announced, the prime ministers of every country underline that such decisions can be cancelled should the situation in the healthcare system worsens. I hope this won’t be the case.

“Mr. Prime Minister, I have forwarded a series of messages over my bee farm in the region of Diber but I am loosing tens of thousands of bees due to the travel ban.”

The region of Dibra is a classified a green area, or a low-risk area and nobody are allowed to enter that region. In the meantime, driving from a district to another is still banned. And it is not only us to have made such a decision, but this is the case in many other countries. I provided the example of Greece, where nobody is allowed to travel from a prefecture to another.

“Is there a way for someone currently living in a city to receive a permission to drive to his home town in order to dig and cultivate his plot of land in the village?”

It depends on which city you currently live and to which village you wish to go. If you live in the so-called green areas, then you are allowed to drive to your hometown, without asking for a permission to do so. If not, then you have to wait and be a little bit more patient, because of the current situation.

“What will happen with the universities? Will they reopen?”

You are right. Today we had a meeting with the Minister of Health, the Minister of Education and a team of experts and the Minister of Education tomorrow will announce the decision about what will happen with the universities.

“I am a 15-year old girl and my parents are stuck in Germany. I want you to lift travel ban so that I can join my parents.”

I would have wished to open the roads so that you can join your parents, but how am I supposed to do that? In every move and every step we make, it is indispensable for us to consider the health system’s situation, the Covid-19 infection situation, and, in the meantime, we share the moral and professional obligation to heed the experts’ opinion. I am engaged in a debate with the experts, when asking them, for example, why Denmark has adapted a more relaxing policy by reopening the kindergartens and the primary schools and their answer was a flatly “no.” I can’t make decisions on my own, just driven by the desire not to hear people throwing slurs and curses upon me and they are actually not to blame for this. You can criticize and burst into accusations against me and I have already shown I can stand and resist a lot to them, but everyone should know that health comes first. I can’t assume the responsibility and support certain individuals, who claim that the coronavirus is an international conspiracy, it is a partisan Masonic invention, or, I don’t know what, just to kill and get rid of the old people, that the coronavirus is spread by the 5G antennas that are being installed in the dark of the night. We can’t follow these people and I am pretty confident that if something was to go wrong, they adapt an about face and blame us only.

“Hello! First of all I would like to express my gratitude for the repatriation process…”

It is the first time I receive acknowledgement for the repatriations. Thank you!

“Whoever needed to return back home, he knows quite well what it is supposed to mean. My parents returned back to Albania, yet they haven’t returned back at home. Given that they are older than 70, they can quarantine in their own house, where nobody goes in and nobody goes out.”

The rules are not made for peculiar cases “where nobody goes in and nobody goes out.” The rules are made and imposed on a whole category of people, because it is not a matter of whether you own or not a house, so that the homeless ones should quarantine in hotels. It is impossible to go over details. Your parents will have to stay few more days in quarantine and after that will be able to return back to their home. They have nothing to worry about. You should call them constantly and urge them feel optimistic, while we are providing them maximum service. No complaints have been expressed by people currently quarantined in hotels, except few minor complaints from those in hotels in the country’s south.

“I have asked you earlier, but I have received no reply. When the borders will reopen?”

First of all, I am doing whatever it takes to provide answers, clash, confront, comment, react and argue with you all. Some level accusations and make derogatory comments, yet I remain calm and blame no one. But, how am I supposed to answer everyone? I have repeatedly stated that.

“When border with Italy will reopen? I live and work in Italy.”

Borders will not reopen for the time being, because it would suffice to join a crowd of people in a ferry and risk wasting the sacrifices so many people and we all have made and risk infecting your parents, family members and relatives.

“Mr. Rama, I would invite you to counsel with experts about the issue of dental clinics.”

May be I am not a real person, our experts are not real ones, but would you please name a country where the dental clinics are open and tell me follow the lead of that country. The dental clinics all over the planet are currently closed.

“The Albanian Embassy in Athens has left us to our fate.”

What is the Embassy supposed to do in these circumstances? I am not saying that the Embassy is flawless. I am not saying the government is flawless. I personally have many flaws, but what is the Embassy is supposed to do so that you could return back to Tirana in these circumstances?!

“Vjollca Lleshi, the owner of the garment factory we used to work, sacked us on March 12. In the meantime, we have received no wartime salary. The owner has kept constantly lying, telling us we all will receive social economic assistance.”

You are entitled to receive the 400,000 lek bonus, just because you have been fired and it is not that Vjollca has been lying to you, but this is because she has been unable to employ you.

“I hope you won’t mention the fact that we can afford paying the internet anytime we complain about the fact that we are running short of money, because we are jobless now. If so, please tell us now so that only those who like your page continue to remain active.”

I cite the fact that you can afford the internet when someone, who is not part of that category of individuals, by taking advantage of the internet and the social networks makes comments suggesting that people are dying of hunger, but if you open his profile you would find out that these individuals are not part of the social and vulnerable categories, or those “who are dying of hunger.”

“When the universities will reopen?”

The Minister of Education will announce a decision on universities.

“When the barber shops will reopen?”

The barber shops are classified as high risk services, because it would take just an infected individual to start a new infection chain. However, we will assess the situation next week and the barber shops may reopen on May 11 when many other businesses and services will be allowed to operate. So, May 11 will mark an important moment, when the reopening will further expand, depending on the situation. We will assess the infection situation next week and, as always, we will announce the sorts of businesses that can reopen and their respective safety protocols.

“I am a worker at Vlora’s industrial market, but I and my husband have become jobless, since we have been unable to go to work because of the pandemic.”

All registered market workers will benefit the cash bonus of 400,000 lek. I repeat, you benefit the cash bonus of 400,000 lek.

“I would like to ask whether the statement made by lawmaker Beqja about cuts in pensions and salaries? Such a move would be a grave one.”

First of all, that’s what he didn’t actually say. Second, everyone may have an idea. A huge gap and distance lies from the statement to the scandalous accusations levelled by the opposition, alleging it is a dangerous plan and experiment being conducted in a dangerous, criminal and mafia laboratory. No! There will never be cuts in pensions!

“Will we receive a second wartime salary, since the first one was allocated for a three-month period?”

All individuals entitled to the wartime salary will receive the second and the third tranche. The cash bonus of 400,000 lek is available to all of workers and individuals who were unable to go to work due to the stay-at-home orders, even though the majority of them have already returned to work by now.

“Durres is almost a green area. Why don’t you allow more freedom of thought, freedom to work and act so that businesses freely operate? Let’s work. We are suffocating in quarantine.”

There is a big difference between a green zone and an almost green zone. However, Durres is not even “an almost green zone.” Durres is an area with high density of population and a high risk area in terms of what is termed as community risk that could turn deadly. So, it is not that I don’t want to allow the freedom of thought. You and everyone enjoy extensive freedom of thought, but we should carefully and step by step think about the freedom to work and act and I am forced to rigorously abide by the doctors’ instructions.

“Why the self-employed private kindergarten teachers are not allowed to continue working with children by strictly observing the hygiene rules?”

Experts have flatly rejected the idea to reopen kindergartens. However, we will assess the situation in the coming weeks.

“Our documents and passports have expired and we are unable to apply for or renewing our passports…”

The operations to apply for or renew passports have been temporarily suspended due to the current situation, but any expired document that has not been renewed will be considered valid for the time being. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Interior has announced its plans to reopen the process of applications for new identity cards and passports. So, you should contact the Ministry of Interior since an announcement has been made about this issue.

“When will it be possible for me to obtain e permit so that my daughter travels to join me in Greece?”

Please show a little bit more patience!

“Will you allow taxis to travel between different cities with a single passenger on board next week?”

We are exploring this opportunity and I believe this will be one of the first decisions to be made. I can’t say for sure whether such a decision will be made next week, or after 10 days, but I know that we are exploring and considering more decisions to ease the restrictive measures and allowing the taxi services to operate is one of the options we are considering.

“Would you please find a single reason why people are not allowed to go to the beach and engage in such a wonderful activity given that we live in a coastal city? Please name one.”

If you own a private sea that would allow you to maintain a safe distance from everyone else, then you may go to swim. However, as far as I know, the problem is that you don’t own a private sea. If beaches will open, they will open to everyone, meaning you won’t be alone, but you will be together with many others, who would swim and run on the sandy beach. If you were to look at the measures adapted and announced today by Greece, the government there has allowed spaces for a very limited beachgoers to private beaches only, but public beaches will not open.

“I work in an institution subordinate to the Ministry of Health. We have been stranded in Venice due to the pandemic. Today I received a notification that I will be denied the salary, since I failed to return back to work.”

If this is true, the institution’s decision will be revoked, because none of the individuals who have been stranded abroad and have been unable to return back home due to the situation will receive full salary. I don’t know which institution you are talking about, but we have ordered every institution and we will renew our appeal to the institutions. None of those in the state’s payrolls will be denied the salary just because they are unable to go to work.

“What is going to happen with farmers? You have left them to their fate. No assistance has been offered to them, so, at least, allow them use their personal cars.”

We haven’ left the farmers to their fate and farmers have never been banned to work due to the stay-at-home orders. I am not aware of the individual case concerning your parents, yet the farmers in the countryside and rural areas of the country have not been stopped to work and they have kept working, producing, selling and exporting their products despite the difficulties due to the current situation. Neither their vehicles, cars nor their products have been banned for a single day. The thing is that when you write about a concrete case and then go on commenting on everyone and all farmers, or even the whole globe, forgetting to describe your own situation and whether the farmers are registered or not, because this is what makes the difference. Informality is scandalous, but the situation is as such that creates such conditions, where many are unable to register and pay the social insurance contributions and receive what you are entitled to benefit due to the informality.

“Thank you very much. I received the wartime salary. Thank you!”

Thank you! Finally, someone puts in a good word. Everyone can put in a good word. We don’t need praise and commendation, but a good word. Don’t start your day by making negative comments, just like someone did on a social network posting about the Vasha Bridge on Arberi Road project, saying that the bridge is unable to support heavy trucks or a maximum gross weight.

Thank you very much!