Communication of Prime Minister Edi Rama ahead of the next important three weeks on gradual reopening of the economy:
Dear friends! First of all, I would like to thank you again and again for everything you have done to date! You should believe and please believe it! If you were not to listen and trust me by doing what you have done so far, today, in the best case scenario, we would see at least nine people die every day from the virus, and 16 in the worst case scenario. But not only that, we would have entered a spiral of progressive infection rate among doctors and nurses that would have deprived us of the war force. And moreover, we wouldn’t be able to talk about a reopening today and instead we would continue to suffer the endless stress of a lockdown, experiencing anxiety and total uncertainty that would prolong the chain of death with as many as 1500 deaths in 90 days, and you do the math what the death toll would be after the 90-day period.
Why am I telling you this?! First of all, I am telling all this, because I want you to feel good, very good that we are right where we are today and, trust me, the natural economic stress would have been extremely much higher than today if we were not to do what we have actually done all together. In short, you are normally bored and upset, but nobody is in despair, because we have miraculously made it! Yes, yes, and miraculously we are safe and sound and this is everything in this state of emergency. Some of you become upset, even some burst into slurs, accusations and curses, whenever I say that nobody has died of hunger in this country since the Skenderbej’s era! This is not cynical, this is neither the arrogance of seeing the things from afar or from above, but it is simply the truth that should be strongly taken into consideration in this wartime and which by no means imply that there are no poor families, there are no families that struggle to make ends meet, especially under these circumstances, quite the contrary. However, I apologize for repeating it, but what do those who say that people are dying of hunger think? Did our people survive eating more or less bread than today during the national liberation war?! It may sound an exaggerated comparison, yet it is not. Did our people lived on eating more or less bread during the post-war years or in the final years of the communist regime, when everyone remembers how people survived on food rations, and when shops offered only leek and potato supplies, whereas everyone had to stay on long queues in order to by whatever else they could?! And neither during the war, nor in the darkest post-war communism or the long transition period had anybody died of hunger. On the other hand, perhaps we haven’t managed to help everyone, because, as it always and everywhere in the world is the case under such circumstances, and perhaps there have been abuses, but if you are to look at the verified lists of people who have been directly supplied with food, without counting the increased economic assistance, you, just like me, will also believe that we have launched the most massive operation of state support for the most needy people in the past 30 years. So, in short, health comes first, as the elderly people say, and thanks to all of you it is the legitimate pride over the results of this national endeavour to protect life.
Secondly, I am telling you today how grave and the situation would have been if we were not to do everything we have done so far, because as we ready to reopen the economy, we should not forget for a single moment that each and every one of you should be aware that the today’s balance could overturn if we forget that the invisible enemy is still around and everywhere among us and ready to take advantage of slightest possible mistake one can do. That’s why we approved a framework of fresh penalties in the Assembly of Albania a day ago. There are certain individuals who never change and reflect no matter the reason and the circumstances, as they remain hostage to their resentment, ignorance and natural evilness or the wrong conviction that they can teach the tricks of the trade to every possible prime minister and government. These individuals – be them either typical failures and losers with a fake Facebook account, or high-profile commentators via “Skype”, who not only always oppose everything, but they are equally ready level accusations – rushed and raced to defend democracy from our effort to fill a vacuum in our Criminal Code, which, until yesterday, was the only Criminal Code in Europe containing not a single provision on the epidemics. I have nothing against them. It is not me, but them having a problem with themselves and even God cannot help them to tackle this problem for as long as they live! The reason I am talking about them has to do with the need to assure you that the changes to the Criminal Code in the event of epidemics has but only one goal: to protect your, your families and the population’s health from abuses that may pose a direct threat to each and every one of you, to your families and everyone else around you.
Today we want to provide a simple evidence to the fact that imposing penalties during this situation is neither a desire of my ‘dictatorial” soul, neither my mind plan to become like Enver, as the above-mentioned individuals accuse me, but merely an indispensability to strengthen the unity and the collective discipline in this war, where a very small minority won’t be allowed to erode the incredible strength of the popular resistance to the invisible enemy and waste this whole joint endeavour, sowing death on the body of the innocent people.
As many as 7107 fines have been imposed on the pedestrians and 1941 other fines have been imposed on the drivers, whose driving licenses have been also suspended for a three-year period and their vehicles have been confiscated. We have decided to pardon all these fines and give drivers back their licenses and vehicles. With the changes to the Criminal Code on the outbreak situation to enter into force next week, all citizens, without any exception, let everyone start on an equal footing this second phase of the war, when the gradual reopening will be definitely coupled also with the possibility of exemplary punishments, which won’t be pardoned again. Let’s say what is gone is gone and, after all, and let those who made a mistake be granted the right of not being suspected disobedient, or irresponsible individuals and let them simply start on the same footing like everyone else. However, who would wish to become one with the people and the country’s interest will pay dearly now with the grave consequences and penalties envisaged under the changes we adopted in the Assembly of Albania yesterday, because no reopening should not give away to a fresh wave of infections that could be spread by irresponsible pedestrians, disobedient drivers, reckless entrepreneurs and shop owners, who might don’t care about protecting the personnel and the consumers’ health.
How are going to reopen? Today I had a helpful and practical conversation with two good friends, much wiser and a lot more capable than me, namely the Chancellor of Austria and the Prime Minister of Sweden. Both complemented me for Albania’s balance in this situation, because it is a fact that our country’s data, both in terms of the coronavirus deaths per one million inhabitants and in terms of the load of our health system, ranking Albania as of today among the country’s with the best possible performance in this world war. But this is not the reason why I am informing you about today’s two telephone conversations. Austria is a country pursuing almost same strategy like ours, whereas Sweden, as you already know, is a country that has adopted a completely different also unique strategy, known worldwide as different from the strategies of all the countries around the world in coping with this situation. I have carefully listened and taken notes of the opinions of both friends, which are equally valuable as the opinions expressed also by other friends during entire this time to verify our reopening plan based on the information directly received by leaders, who are on the frontline of this effort in their countries. There are two important things I would like to share with you: first, the gradual reopening, everyone should be aware that it has its unknown and risk factor, meaning that we should all know that a return to a new lockdown is totally possible, if we happen to find out that the number of infections increases beyond any reasonable and foreseeable forecast and everyone should take into account this possibility.
So, to put it clear, no country, no expertise, no theory in the world suggest that as long as the infection is active, it would be eliminated once a vaccine is found and produced. Somehow, one can state that since this confrontation with this invisible enemy began, our societies should be prepared and learn to live with the danger of infection, but doing at the same time everything to contain the virus. No magic, no hermetic lockdown, but the vaccine can wipe out the virus. However, it hinges on each and every one of us how much the virus succeeds in harming us and, certainly, if we strongly defend ourselves and guard ourselves properly when leaving our homes, damages to the peoples’ lives and the sufferings in hospitals and other effects significantly drop.
And this is the second point. Social distancing of everyone, respecting elementary rules, we have now learned by heart, namely one-meter distance, frequent hand-washing, open windows, should all be respected not only when being reminded of the Criminal Code, the State Police, or health inspectors, but by thinking about your parents, children, relatives and friends, as well as ourselves. This is not a time to get away with the state. This is not a time to pick the shortest path, but it is the time for everyone to fix in their mind the fact that any violation could lead to unintentional deaths along the infection chain in your own families and others part of the contacts chain.
The United States President yesterday said a sentence I would like to quote: We have learned a lot over the past few weeks! Imagine, this is said by the planet’s most powerful man, who leads the most powerful state in the area of knowledge and science! This means we all move ahead in this effort, just like the blind people navigate step by step the road they walk on by using the walking cane and memorize the steps they have taken, always risking in every step for the cane to encounter a barrier and fall if not measuring their steps properly. By saying this, I would like to again return for a moment to all remarks, complaints, and slurs why the rules frequently change, while there is no general forecast for this whole period. This is because we are in a dynamics and a process, where we are not alone, but there is always someone in front, around and behind us, who might be seeking to send us to hospital, or, even worse, take our lives away.
I would like to apologize for every sort of hardship, all kind of obstacles and headache you have experienced and endured during these unforgettable weeks, but, again, hardship, obstacles and headache will all be forgotten, whereas what we are all going to remember whether we will emerge proud and victorious, or disgraced and with our heads down from this war. In the meantime, by reducing hardship, the number of obstacles and the headache reasons – things like the authorization rejection, delay in transferring the wartime salary, or stranding outside the borders – so, by easing travel restrictions, stay-at-home-orders, repatriation and stuff like that, I want everyone to know that we become more exposed to the risk of seeing the number of infections soar.
That’s why, please, please and please, tell you yourselves and each other in your families that nothing should be taken for granted in that area of the warfront, where each of us is deployed. This is because it would take just one of you to ignore the rules and the number of the infections and possibly the number of deaths could grow in the blink of an eye!
Now, since everything will be closed to everyone tomorrow, as we have already announced, the retired people will be allowed to leave their homes until 11 am, of course not to play dominoes and dangerously gather in crowds, but just to breathe some fresh air and walk. They should also maintain the safety distance. Whereas next week, just like the pedestrians, all those working in the allowed businesses would be able to obtain a week long authorization via the platform and they will be able to drive their personal cars from and to work and will be allowed to take only one person, a colleague or a family member, who should sit diagonally in the backseat. Whoever obtains the permit should carefully read the penalties that could be imposed due to a possible violation of the rules and, learning from the previous experiences, we will conduct tomorrow, or even today afternoon, a test this instrument that puts an end to a phase of applications with the State Police via e-mail, where, of course due to the restrictive measures and the great care exercised by the police, many applications have been massively turned down, causing exactly the abovementioned headache and the hardship. I apologize for all of that, but health comes first.
Also, next week we will authorize the movement of vehicles for health reasons, taking notice that often, I personally and other colleagues, have received legitimate complaints about health reasons. However, this authorization will have to be supported by a medical document that the driver of the vehicle must carry with him. Even for this, the permit recipient must read well the criminal consequence that comes from the possible violation.
Third, next week, all business categories that will be allowed to open during the daily time period from 5 am to 5:30 pm, or in shifts according to the nature of the work and business, will be published on the e-albania website. All administrators, for all businesses in all these categories, must ensure that in each constituent collective of a respective business, to learn what the tasks are and to observe the safety protocol according to the established rules but not only that, but also learn what the criminal consequences are for violators of these rules.
Fourth, starting next week, we should start to further open next week, starting from Monday, April 27, all other business and work categories that will also be published e-albania platform tomorrow.
And finally, I want to put it very clearly that starting next week, according to the new Criminal Code, the consequences for violators of the rules without exception, but especially the bar-cafes that could open their doors secretly, will be severe and non-negotiable.
Brothers and sisters, please, I beg you all to resist with dignity and strong resolution just like we have done as of today, despite stress, obstacles and troubles we have been through, and be sure, don’t suspect for even a moment, that I and this government will do whatever it takes so that nobody is left alone and fraternally stand by each and every one of you. Yet, just keep in mind that our common home, this state, this government has lost 100 million euros in March, more than 170 million euros in April, and is likely to lose 170 million euros in May and around 100 million euros in June due to this war. The losses are estimated to total to around half billion of euros! I am not complaining, neither I am telling you that we will turn our back to every one of you because of these losses. No way. We will do whatever it takes, but I am just reminding you all that just like any other household, revenues of our common home have been badly affected, considering how much we are doing and how much we want to do and support everyone.
This means only the following: When you ask support from me under such difficult circumstances, you should know that I want to give everyone not only what you ask for, but a lot more, because, believe it or not, today more than ever you are all my family and what belongs to the state is not mine, but yours. But mine is the responsibility to make sure resists with dignity today and be a decent one in the future.
Therefore, please don’t listen to the owls that preach death of hunger! We will win this war and relief that will ensue after all the pain and hardship will make us understand how strong and how good Albania could be!