Extreme weather has taken several counties and the city of Bucharest in its grip/ The Romanian Health Ministry is to decide whether or not to declare a flu epidemic in Romania, after a growing number of flu virus infections and deaths in recent times
WEATHER – Meteorologists have issued a new code yellow alert against freezing rain and icing valid for 6 counties in south-eastern Romania and the capital city, Bucharest, as well as warnings against freezing rain for the south and the southwest, and against gusty wind and snowfalls for the mountainous regions, valid until Sunday. 16 counties and the city of Bucharest have been affected by freezing rain and precipitations. In Bucharest, scores of trees have been broken or uprooted because of freezing rain and tens of cars have been damaged, the Inspectorate for Emergency Situations has announced. Electricity has been disrupted because of unfavourable weather conditions, with 120,000 people being left without electricity in some 200 towns and villages. Bad weather has also affected road traffic, several segments of highway and national roads having been temporarily closed because of icing and blizzard. Railway and air traffic has also been severely disrupted. Trains failed to arrive on time and many flights have been cancelled or delayed on Henri Coanda Airport near Bucharest as well as on other airports across the country because of aircraft de-icing procedures. Tens of people slipping on snow or ice have been taken to hospital for care, with injuries and bone fractures. Over 12,000 employees of the Romanian Interior Ministry, policemen, fire-fighters and gendarmes have been mobilised to intervene immediately and support the population. As of Sunday noon, temperatures will slightly go up all across the country. The highs will range between minus 3 and plus 7 degrees Celsius.
FLU - The Romanian Health Ministry will decide next week whether or not to declare a flu epidemic in Romania, after a growing number of flu virus infections and deaths in recent times. The authorities have announced that 39 people have succumbed to the flu this season. The line minister, Sorina Pintea, on Tuesday called on the National Public Health Institute to make public data on the situation at national level and said the ministry will declare the outbreak of a flu epidemic if reported data confirm for a third week the epidemic scale of the flu. Doctors continue to recommend vaccination as well as going to a GP when noticing symptoms similar to flu infections. As regards the suspension of classes in schools and high-schools because of the rising number of flu cases, the health minister said each school can file a request to that end, if the rate of absenteeism exceeds 20%.
VENEZUELA - The EU High Representative for Foreign Policy,
Federica Mogherini, on Saturday urged Venezuela to hold free, transparent and
credible presidential elections to elect a government that truly represents the
will of its citizens. "In the absence of an announcement on the organization of
fresh elections with the necessary guarantees over the next few days, the EU
will take further actions, including on the issue of recognition of the
country's leadership in line with article 233 of the Venezuelan constitution,"
Mogherini said in a statement. Mogherini's message comes after the coordinated
ultimatums from Madrid,
Paris, Berlin, London and Lisbon, which gave 8 days to the incumbent president
Nicolas Maduro to call for early elections, or they will recognize his
opponent, Juan Guaido, as ''president'' of Venezuela if he does not do that in
this time span. On Saturday, the Venezuela file was on the agenda of a UN Security
Council meeting, convened at the request of the USA. US Secretary of State, Mike
Pompeo, urged the Security Council members to support the leader of the opposition
in Venezuela, Juan Guaido. The latter self-proclaimed interim "president" on
Wednesday, enjoying Washington's support.
– The Romanian Foreign Ministry has hailed the signing by the Greek Parliament of the Prespa Agreement which provides for the official change of the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia into the Republic of North Macedonia. The Romanian Foreign Ministry says Friday’s vote in the Parliament in Athens, alongside the one in the Parliament in Skopje, on January 11, stand proof of both sides’ commitment to normalise bilateral relations and contributes significantly to giving a new dynamics to the Western Balkans’ European and Euro-Atlantic perspective. The ratification of the agreement has also been hailed by the USA. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has expressed satisfaction with the approval by the Greek Parliament of the agreement which puts en end to an almost 30 year-long dispute between the two neighbours and opens the way to that small Balkan state towards EU and NATO accession. The agreement has been vehemently contested by numerous Greeks, as Macedonia is also the name of a historical Greek province.
USA – US President Donald Trump has signed a bill to end federal shutdown and temporarily reopen government. The deal announced on Friday will re-open shuttered federal agencies until February 15. It will enable approximately 800,000 employees affected by the shutdown to resume work and receive payment. In another move, President Trump warned however to impose a fresh shutdown if the Mexico border wall deal is not reached by February 15. The American Senate unanimously passed a funding bill on Friday afternoon. It then went to the House, where it was unanimously approved.
POLITICS – Former Romanian technocratic PM Dacian Cioloş on Saturday was elected President of the Liberty, Unity and Solidarity Party, PLUS, with a majority of votes. Ciolos said he will only hold a one year mandate, until the leading structures of the party are elected. During his tenure, Ciolos will have responsibilities in building the party and getting good results in the European parliamentary elections scheduled for May. Dacian Ciolos is a former EU Commissioner for Agriculture. He became Prime Minister of Romania in the autumn of 2015, after the resignation tendered by the Ponta cabinet, against the backdrop of wide protests generated by the tragic events of October 30, 2015, when fire ripped through the Colectiv club in Bucharest, killing many innocent lives. Ciolos led the government until the 2016 legislative elections.
MOLDOVAN ELECTIONS – The electoral campaign for the parliamentary elections of February 24 started in the neighbouring Republic of Moldova on Friday. The elections will be held for the first time based on the so called mixed voting system, that is 50 MPs will be elected on party lists and 51 others in uninominal electoral constituencies, in only one round of voting. Nine parties have already enlisted so far and six have filed the documents at the Central Electoral Committee. According to the opinion polls, the pro-Russian Socialists of President Igor Dodon are in the lead, followed by representatives of the pro-European right and the ruling Democratic Party (left of centre). A referendum on downsizing the number of MPs from 101 to 61 and on introducing the possibility of dismissing MPs will also be held concurrently with the elections.
AUSTRALIA – Thousands of Australians took part in rallies across the country on Saturday to protest against the so called “Invasion Day”, which marks the arrival of the first British settlers in 1788 and which they consider an insult to the indigenous population, FP reports. To many Australians, January 26, when “Australia Day” is celebrated, marks the start of oppression against the indigenous population. The protesters, gathered in big cities, have called for changing the date of the national holiday or for simply relinquishing it. Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is opposed to the change, has said Australia cannot turn its back on its past. In that country, the Aboriginal Australians are most disadvantaged, with a poverty rate much below other communities and also with a reduced access to healthcare.
TENNIS - Japanese woman tennis player, Naomi Osaka, no.4 WTA on Saturday won the women’s final of the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam tournament of the year, by defeating the Czech Petra Kvitova (no. 6 WTA), in three sets. Osaka, 21, will become no.1 WTA as of Monday, replacing Romanian Simona Halep, who got eliminated in the eighth finals in Melbourne. Osaka is the first woman tennis player from an Asian country to become no.1 in the world. Petra Kvitova will become no.2 WTA, also as of Monday. (Translated by D. Vijeu)