State of alert. The Romanian Government is to discuss, in today's meeting, a decision on extending the state of alert by 30 days, as of August 16, and the measures to be applied over this period to prevent and combat the effects of COVID-19. This is the third time since the start of the pandemic that the Executive has resorted to this measure to prevent the spread of infections. In Romania, so far, at least 66,600 cases of people infected with the new coronavirus have been confirmed, and over 31,500 patients have been declared cured. The Strategic Communication Group has also announced that 478 patients are in intensive care. The total number of deaths due to COVID-19 has reached 2860. Globally, the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in more than 757,000 deaths since December, and the number of infections has exceeded 21 million, according to worldometers.info. Nearly 14 million people are cured. France Presse reports that the number of cases could be much higher, as some countries test only serious cases, others use retests to monitor patients' condition, and some poor countries have limited screening capabilities.
Budget. The Romanian Executive is discussing, today, the second budget adjustment this year. The Minister of Finance, Florin Cîţu, has explained that the budget deficit is increasing due to the drop in the budget revenues caused by the economic crisis and due to the increase in expenses to fight the pandemic. However, more money will go to health, employment, education and transport. The finance minister has given assurances that the current budget adjustment will allow pensions to be increased this year. On the other hand, the Romanian economy registered a decline of 12.3% in the second quarter of this year compared to the first quarter, and 10.5% compared to the second quarter of 2019, according to the National Institute of Statistics. In the first six months of this year, it decreased by 3.9% as against the same period last year. Florin Cîţu announced on Thursday evening that the National Commission for Strategy and Prognosis also revised the estimates regarding the evolution of the Romanian economy in 2020, so that, currently, the institution forecasts a contraction going up to 3.8%, compared to 1.8% previously. According to the summer economic forecasts, published by the European Commission, Romania's GDP will register a significant drop, of 6%, in 2020.
Navy Day. Romanian Navy Day is traditionally celebrated on August 15, the Christian holiday of St. Mary. This year, however, the events were adapted to the new conditions imposed by Covid-19. Thus, unlike in previous years, this year's edition, dedicated to the 160th anniversary of the establishment of the Romanian Naval Forces, takes place mainly online. The official Facebook page of the Naval Forces has already launched thematic contests and virtual projects that offer the public the opportunity to get to know the military sailors better. Recitals of the Military Music of the Naval Forces were also streamed online, as well virtual tours of Romanian ports. On Saturday, however, on Navy Day, there will be parades of ships on the Black Sea and the Danube. In order to prevent the gathering of large masses of people, public access will not be allowed.
Agreement. Israel and the United Arab Emirates have reached a historic agreement to normalize their relations, brokered by the United States. It is the greatest progress for peace between Israel and the Arab world in 26 years and the basis of the third agreement between Israel and an Arab nation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. Israel also has peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan. The Palestinian National Authority termed the agreement to normalize the relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates a "betrayal" of the Palestinian cause and called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League to denounce the agreement. According to France Presse, normalizing the relations between Israel and Gulf powers such as Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates is part of the Trump administration's plan for the Middle East, welcomed by Israelis but rejected by Palestinians.
Protests. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Belarus on Thursday night to denounce the violent repression of the protest movement triggered by the controversial re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko, FP reports. On Thursday, authorities announced the release of more than 1,000 protesters, while the presence of police on the streets of the capital Minsk was much less numerous than in previous evenings. More than 6,700 people have been arrested since Sunday, and numerous cases of violent treatment and torture of detainees have been reported since then. Amnesty International said in a statement on Thursday that there had been cases of protesters "stripped, beaten and threatened with rape" during detention. More than 1,000 researchers in Belarus have signed a letter 'against violence', and medical staff have gathered in front of the health facilities where they worked. According to information published by the opposition media, protest actions took place in important state factories, and journalists from the state press have announced their resignation in the last days.
Tennis. Romanian tennis player Simona Halep, world number two and first-seed is today playing against the Polish Magdalena Frech (174 WTA), in the quarterfinals of the WTA tournament in Prague, with over 200 thousand dollars in prize money. Also in the quarterfinals, another Romanian, Ana Bogdan, got injured and had to withdraw when the score was 5-2 in her favor, which benefited the Czech Kristyna Pliskova. In the doubles competition, the pair of Romanian players Monica Niculescu and Raluca Olaru qualified for the semifinals and will play against the winners of the game between Barbora Krejcikova / Katerina Siniakova (Czech Republic / N.1) and Veronika Kudermetova / Anastasia Pavliucenkova of Russia. (M. Ignatescu)