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, died on Sunday, 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 starting the 1st of February. Thus only people aged over 65, chronic diseases patients and disabled persons will be immunized in February. 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. At present, Romania uses the Pfizer – BioNTech vaccine. A 7th batch of almost 164 thousand doses of Pfizer vaccine will be delivered to Romania on Monday, by plane. Over 670 thousand people have so far been vaccinated in Romania. Another 1,800 new infections were reported on Sunday in Romania, out of over 15 thousand tests, and 71 deaths.
RUSSIA – Thousands of people protested on Sunday in Russia, asking for the release of the Alexei Navalny. The police detained over 1 thousand people who took to the streets in Russia’s main cities, including Moscow, the international media reports. Among them is also Yulia Navalny, the wife of the Russian opposition leader, who had been detained and then released last week, after a similar protest. Security forces blocked the access to a number of central areas, including the capital city, where road circulation and a number of metro stations were closed. This was the second consecutive weekend of protests in support of Alexei Navalny, the anti-corruption activist and the most prominent face of Russian opposition to President Vladimir Putin.
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 said, 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.
RESTRICTIONS - Portugal has closed its borders in an attempt to slow down the spread of the virus while Spain has reintroduced checks at its borders. Other countries, such as Germany, the Czech Republic and France 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.
TENNIS - Romanian tennis player Simona Halep, no. 2 in the world, was 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, on Sunday qualified to 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. (Translated by EE)