COVID-19 A 4th batch of Pfizer/ BioNTech vaccine reached Romania on Monday morning. The 150,000 doses were delivered to the airports in Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca and Timișoara, and will be taken to the Cantacuzino Institute in Bucharest and in vaccination centres in the country. Since the start of the national vaccination programme over 108,000 people have received the anti-COVID-19 vaccine. Mild and common side effects have been reported in 350 cases. The vaccination programme coordinator, dr. Valeriu Gheorghiţă, said the authorities intend to step up the campaign. The second stage, covering the elderly and chronic patients, is set to begin on January 15. Meanwhile, the total number of COVID-19 cases in Romania since the onset of the pandemic is over 673,000, with the total death toll over 16,700. Over 1,000 patients are currently in intensive care, and nearly 600,000 patients have recovered so far.
PANDEMIC A team of World Health Organisation experts in charge with investigating the coronavirus origins and expected to arrive in China last week, will begin its mission on Thursday, the Chinese health ministry announced on Monday, according to France Presse and Reuters. This has been a sensitive issue to Beijing, which seeks to control the origin story of the pandemic that killed more than 1.9 million people worldwide, AFP reports. Originally scheduled for last week, the mission was cancelled at the last moment. The green light comes exactly 1 year after the first coronavirus death was reported in China’s Wuhan. Nearly 91 million people have so far caught the virus, and more than 2-thirds of them have recovered.
SCHOOLS Romanian students today resumed online classes after the winter holiday. Three weeks of online classes will be followed by one-week break before the second half of the academic year. The education ministry is to decide by the end of the month whether the second school semester, beginning on February 8, will see children back into schools. The National Student Council has requested decentralised decisions in this respect, so that schools may be reopened in areas with infection rates below 3 per thousand. The education minister Sorin Câmpeanu said in a recent meeting with relevant trade unions and teacher, student and parent associations, that it all depended on the latest COVID-19 developments, and that schools and kindergartens would most likely be reopened in stages depending on the local infection rate. Sorin Cîmpeanu also said that students’ and teachers’ health is important, but that covering the school curricula, especially for the students who have national exams scheduled this year, must also be taken into account.
DEFICIT Romania’s trade balance deficit deepened by some 910 million euros in the first 11 months of 2020 compared to the previous year, to 16.4 billion euros, according to data released on Monday by the National Statistics Institute. Between January 1 and November 30, 2020, exports totalled 57 billion euros and imports 73.5 billion. Compared to the corresponding period of 2019, exports dropped by 11%, and imports by nearly 8%.
US In the US, the Democrats plan a vote in the House of Representatives on Monday to request vice-president Mike Pence to take steps to remove the outgoing president Donald Trump, using the 25th Amendment in the US Constitution and declaring Trump incapable of fulfilling the duties of his office. Should this fail, the Democrats could move on to impeach Trump for inciting last week’s Capitol riots. Trump would be the first president in US history subject to impeachment procedures twice. His term in office ends on January 20, but the impeachment procedure may continue in the Senate even after Donald Trump leaves the White House.
SPORTS The Romanian tennis player Mihaela Buzărnescu Monday won 6-4, 6-3 against Spain’s Lara Arruabarrena, in the Dubai qualifying draw for the Australian Open, due to take place between February 8 and 21. Also on Monday the Romanians Laura Paar and Monica Niculescu lost their qualifying matches. Irina Bara and Gabriela Talabă also lost the qualifiers on Sunday. Five Romanian players already have a spot in the Australian Open main draw: Simona Halep (2 WTA), Patricia Ţig (56 WTA), Sorana Cîrstea (71 WTA), Irina Begu (78 WTA) and Ana Bogdan (92 WTA). In the men’s singles, Marius Copil is playing today in the qualifying round in Doha, Qatar. (tr. A.M. Popescu)