A roundup of domestic and international news.
FIRE – One more patient who was transferred to another wing of the Matei Bals hospital, following Friday’s fire, has died, bringing the death toll to 7, the Health Ministry has announced. Investigators are trying to establish the cause of the fire at the Matei Bals infectious diseases hospital, which was treating mostly patients infected with Covid-19. Members of the hospital’s medical and administrative staff and relatives of the patients who died in the fire were heard by the police on Saturday. Also on Saturday, Health Minister Vlad Voiculescu announced the setting up of the National Fund for Patients’ Safety, financed from European funds and the state budget, allowing hospitals to make urgent investment in security to fire, earthquake and prevention of hospital-acquired infections. Minister Voiculescu has also announced the opening of a hotline where relatives of the Covid patients can get information about the condition of the latter.
VACCINATION - Romanian authorities have announced the modification of the anti-Covid vaccination strategy. Thus, in the month of February, only people aged over 65, chronic diseases patients and disabled persons will be immunized. People who have already been scheduled for vaccination will get the shot. Employees with key-sectors will no longer be allowed to register for vaccination in February. A second batch of over 21 thousand doses of Moderna vaccine were delivered to Romania on Saturday, and then distributed to vaccination centers across the country. Romania also uses the Pfizer – BioNTech vaccine. Authorities say the two vaccines are similar and their efficiency rate is quite the same, 95% for Pfizer and 94.1% for Moderna. Both are based on the ARN messenger technology. Almost 650 thousand people have so far been vaccinated in Romania. Another 2,700 new infections were reported on Saturday in Romania, out of 31 thousand tests, and 68 deaths.
PROTESTS – Representatives of the Cartel Alfa trade union confederation have announced protest actions next week in Bucharest and other cities. They ask for higher salaries, the fair application of laws and the unblocking of social dialogue. They say the pandemic and the global crisis are used by the government to freeze expenditure for the poorest categories of people. They also say, in a press release, that while most Central and East European countries have increased the minimum wage, in order to preserve people’s purchasing power, Romania applies the highest taxation rate on the gross salary, which leaves workers with little money. Moreover, maintaining collective sectoral bargaining blocked, keeps the entire salary scheme down, which generates smaller revenues and massive migration.
TENNIS - Romanian tennis player Simona Halep, no. 2 in the world, has been designated the main favourite of the Yarra Valley Classic tournament, that started today in Melbourne. Halep will compete directly in the second round, against Russian Anastasia Patapova. Another Romanian player, Irina Begu, ranked 79th in the world, has today qualified in the second round of the same competition, after defeating Chinese Saisai Zhen, (WTA 42). The other two Romanians in the competition, Patricia Tig and Mihaela Buzarnescu have left the competition today, after losing to Daria Kasatkina and Timea Babos, respectively.
RESTRICTIONS - As of Sunday, EU citizens travelling to Portugal by plane must present a negative coronavirus test taken by maximum 72 hours prior to boarding. Lisbon authorities have recommended people to travel only if it is strictly necessary. Portugal has reintroduced checks at its ground and naval borders and has closed down a number of checkpoints with Spain. Other countries, such as Germany, the Czech Republic and France have imposed additional restrictions over fears generated by the new variants of the virus. Germany banned, as of Saturday, the access of most visitors from Britain, Ireland, Portugal, Brazil and South Africa, while the Czech government banned unessential travels, with a few exceptions. France has in turn closed its borders for non-EU citizens while asking EU citizens to present a negative Covid test. The German Government has threatened to take to Court companies that do not observe their obligation to deliver vaccines to the EU. The European Medicines Agency on Friday approved the anti-COVID-19 vaccine produced by the British-Swedish company AstraZeneca, the third vaccine green lighted for use in the European Union. The company has been at the centre of a dispute over the speed of supplies, which disrupted national vaccination campaigns in a number of countries. In order to make sure that vaccines are distributed in keeping with the contract, the EU has decided to introduce a control mechanism of exports for the vaccines produced in the member states. (Translated by EE)