The latest news and main stories today.
Pandemic. Almost 2,000 new Covid cases and 72 new related deaths were reported on Sunday in Romania, which now surpasses 745,000 infections and 18,880 deaths. With respect to the on-going vaccination campaign, the health ministry in Bucharest said all the three vaccines approved in the European Union, including Romania, namely Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca, may also be administered to people with autoimmune diseases. The first batch of over 80,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which arrived on Saturday, began to be administered in Romania on Sunday. However, this vaccine will only be used in this country in adults between 18 and 55 years of age. Overall, some 656,000 people have received the Covid vaccine so far in Romania.
Schools. More than 2.4 million pupils out of Romania's almost 3 million are going back to school on Monday for the start of the second semester. Pupils and teachers will be wearing face masks in classroom at all times, children have to sit within at least 1 metre of each other and access is not allowed to visitors from outside. Education minister Sorin Cîmpeanu on Saturday told a TV station that education during the pandemic has been of low quality, largely because of on-line teaching, but also because of poor access to technology in some places, especially in rural areas. The minister said the losses are significant, explaining that there are big gaps between different schools and children and that it will be difficult to catch up with all the learning lost. He added that his ministry will closely monitor the catch-up scheme, which benefits from 30 million euros worth of funding.
State budget. This year's state budget will most likely be published for public consultation on Monday before being approved by the government sometime next week. Prime minister Florin Cîţu said the budget is based on a deficit of around 7% of GDP and aims to boost economic recovery and put an end to excessive and unjustified public spending. He also spoke about restructuring loss-making state companies, which will be denied funding unless they carry out reforms. The government is also looking into ways to cut bonuses in state-owned companies, which amount to 120 million euros. The prime minister said that while staff expenses have doubled in the last four years, public administration has not become more efficient. The Social Democratic Party in opposition has come up with its own budget bill, saying its goals are healthcare, education, economic recovery and raising people's living standards.
Renault. French car maker Renault said it would suspend production next week at several factories due to a worldwide shortage of semiconductors. The temporary shutdown will affect factories in France, Romania and Morocco, which will be closed for two or three days. The shortage of chips, which has also affected other car makers such as Fiat, Opel, Chrysler, Citroen, Ford, Toyota and Volkswagen, was generated by increasing demand for chips from laptop and mobile phone manufacturers. The situation faced by the Renault-owned Dacia factory in Mioveni, which affects some 8,000 employees, has been discussed by the factory management with the Romanian labour minister Raluca Turcan. The latter said she would ask Parliament to amend the law allowing businesses in difficult situations to benefit from subsidy to pay their employees. The labour ministry will propose changes to the work schedule when justified, with reduction in working hours of up to 80% if necessary.
Moldova. Moldova's prime minister designate Natalia Gavriliţă will on Monday present Parliament with her governing platform and her cabinet. President Maia Sandu said Gavriliţă is a professional with integrity and that she expects her to present a programme based on economic development and ridding state institutions of corruption. With a background in economic, Natalia Gavriliţă is the managing director of the Global Innovation Fund based in London. Under Moldovan legislation, if a new government is not invested after at last two attempts, Parliament is dissolved.
Handball. Romanian women's handball champions SCM Râmnicu Vâlcea defeated the Danish side HC Odense 26:25 in Champions League Group B match on Sunday. They are 6th in the 8-team group. On Saturday in Group A, the Romanian vice-champions CSM Bucharest defeated another Danish side, Team Esbjerg, to go up to fourth place in the group. In the EHF European League competition, the Romanian women's side HC Dunărea Brăila lost on Sunday to the Hungarian side Siofok KC 24:31 in a Group D match. Dunărea also lost the home against Siofok, who top the group with 7 points, followed by Dunărea with 3. In Group on Saturday, CS Minaur Baia defeated the Russian side Astrakhanochka Astrakhan 30:27. Minaur, Astrakhanochka and Storhamar from Norway are in the top three places in the group with four points each.
Tennis. Six Romanian players are in action in the opening round at the Australian Open, in the women's singles. World no. 2 and second seed Simona Halep will be facing Australia's Lizette Cabrera, Patricia Ţig will be playing Sorana Cîrstea in an all-Romanian match, Irina Begu will play Serbia's Nina Stojanovic, Ana Bogdan will play Danielle Collins of the US and Mihaela Buzărnescu will meet the Romanian-born Canadian player Bianca Andreescu. (CM)