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A roundup of domestic and international news
Covid-19 update. The Romanian government has extended the state of alert by a further 30 days from 7th February. A number of measures will remain in place, including the mandatory wearing of face masks in all indoor and outdoor areas. The government also adopted the rule according to which the validity of the Covid certificate for entering Romania is nine months without the booster shot. Otherwise, a negative Covid test result or proof of recovery from infection are needed. The deadline for filling in the digital form for entering the country has been extended from 24 to 72 hours. The pilots of the planes flying to and from Romania and the Romanian citizens living on the border and working in neighbouring countries no longer have to fill in this form. On Friday, Romania reported almost 32,000 new Covid cases and some 100 new related fatalities.
Cooperation. The Romanian Minister of Health, Alexandru Rafila, and his Italian counterpart, Roberto Speranza, signed, on Friday, in Rome, a memorandum of understanding that provides for the development of collaboration relations in the field, from public health emergencies, training and intervention, to pandemic management . The signing was preceded by a visit to the 'Higher Institute of Health', where the grounds of a collaboration with the National Institute of Public Health in Romania were laid. The collaboration is all the more important as there are over 1.2 million Romanian citizens in Italy, a communiqué reads. The Italian authorities have reconfirmed the commitments for the provision of medical assistance to children in Romania who have oncological and cardiac diseases and for the training of Romanian specialists in the field of pediatric cardiovascular surgery.
B9. "We cannot accept the threat of the use of force or outdated concepts such as that referring to the sphere of influence", said the Romanian foreign minister Bogdan Aurescu on Thursday in Bucharest, speaking about concerns that Russia's actions are seeking to undermine the European security architecture. Aurescu hosted a round of talks held in hybrid format and attended by the Bucharest Nine foreign ministers of the states on the eastern flank. The talks were also attended by the French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who was on a trip to Bucharest, and the Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba. Diplomatic actions to defuse the standoff on the Russian-Ukrainian border have also taken place in other capitals in recent days.
Protest. Trade unions in the metallurgical industry on Friday staged a rally outside the government building in Bucharest to protest against the fact that businesses in this sector do not benefit from a cap on energy prices. The government exempted non-household users who already received state aid from the cap on electricity and natural gas prices. Trade unions are saying the move is unfair and are asking the government to cap electricity and natural gas prices to the level of December 2020 for at least another year. The workers at ALRO Slatina also staged a protest yesterday, their management having cut production and sent 1,500 workers on furlough.
EU sanctions. The European Union has prepared a "robust and comprehensive" package of sanctions against Russia if it continues its aggression against Ukraine, the European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen told the Handeslblatt and Les Echos newspapers, according to Reuters. The sanctions include limiting Russia's access to foreign capital and exports controls, especially on technical goods, von der Leyen explained. The controversial North Stream 2 gas pipeline is also targeted by the package of sanctions, "depending on Russia's behavior" if it is put into operation, she added. Russia, who annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 and supports the separatists in eastern Ukraine, has massed some 100,000 soldiers near the Ukrainian border, demanding security guarantees from the West, including that Ukraine would not be accepted into NATO. The Kremlin accused Washington of ignoring its calls for easing the tension as the latter said it would deploy an additional 3,000 troops to Poland and Romania, Reuters also reports.
Rugby. Romania's national rugby team will make its debut on Saturday, on home turf, in Bucharest, against Russia, in a new edition of the Rugby Europe Championship, the second best continental competition, after the famous Six Nations tournament. The match is also part of the qualifyiers for the World Cup to be hosted by France. The teams rank first and second at both the 2021 and 2022 editions qualify straight into the final tournament. In the Rugby Europe Championship rankings Georgia is first with 23 points, followed by Romania and Portugal with 14 points each.
Winter Olympics. The 24th edition of the Winter Olympic Games got under way in Beijing amid concerns about the Covid pandemic and a diplomatic boycott from some western countries. Beijing is the first city to have hosted both the Summer Games, back in 2008, and the Winter Games. 22 Romanian athletes are taking part in the competitions, in sledding, bobsled, skeleton, cross country skiing, alpine skiing, ski jumping, biathlon and speed skating. On 17th January, following a rise in Covid infections and the first confirmed case of Omicron in Beijing, the organizers announced tickets would not be sold to the general public and that a limited number of spectators would be admitted based on invitations. The US, Britain and other allied states launched a diplomatic boycott of the Games because of China's human rights situation. Beijing denied, however, the accusations of human rights violations. At the opening ceremony, against the background of the current tense geopolitical situation, the president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Back, conveyed a strong message to the world: Give peace a chance! (MI)
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