COVID-19 The new coronavirus strain discovered in the UK, and which spreads more easily, has been confirmed in Romania, in a 27-year old woman, the Romanian Health Ministry announced on Friday. The patient, who has a mild form of the disease and is isolating at home, has not travelled abroad recently. Nearly 5,000 new COVID-19 cases were reported on Friday, many of them in the capital Bucharest. The total number of cases since the onset of the pandemic is over 660,000. 1,100 patients are in intensive care, and the death toll exceeds 16,500. The Romanian Health Minister plans to streamline procedures for the set-up and authorisation of COVID-19 vaccination centres. Minister Vlad Voiculescu announced the relevant legislation is being amended to this end. PM Florin Cîţu said in a post that Romania’s vaccination capacity is growing from one day to the next, and explains the number of centres is soon expected to reach 1,000, with a combined capacity of 150,000 vaccine doses per day. So far over 92,000 people have received the vaccine in Romania.
VACCINE The EU has signed a new deal with Pfizer/BioNTech for the purchase of another 300 million doses of anti-Covid vaccine, in addition to the 300 million already bought, said the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen quoted by DPA. According to the EU official, 75 million doses would be delivered in the second quarter of the year. The EU started rolling out the vaccine produced by the German-US consortium Pfizer-BioNTec in December. The EU has also approved the Moderna vaccine and is waiting for the delivery of the first 160 million doses. The European Commission has been criticised for the slow pace of the immunization campaign addressing its 450 million citizens.
BUDGET The European Commission has again cautioned the centre-right government in Bucharest that it has to keep budget deficit in check, after expenditures soared in 2020 whereas incomes went down against the background of the health crisis. We are expecting a robust 2021 budget from Romania, the vice-president of the European Commission Valdis Dombrovskis said in a phone talk with the Romanian Finance Minister Alexandru Nazare. The Romanian official pledged that investments and EU fund absorption remain top priorities. Minister Nazare said Bucharest plans a gradual narrowing of the deficit starting this year, so that it may reach 3% of the GDP in 2024.
TEEN PREGNANCIES Romania ranks 2nd in the EU by number of teenage births, which has serious consequences on teenage mothers as well as social and economic costs, according to a report released by UNICEF and SAMAS Association in Romania. Adolescent childbearing is recurring within families from one generation to the other, and is linked with poverty and with poor health services and social-economic status. According to the report, in 2019 Romania had nearly 17,000 teenage pregnancies. Recommendations include legislative and administrative reforms to remove barriers to underage access to reproductive health and information and the introduction of mandatory reproductive health classes in schools.
SPORTS The women’s handball side CSM Bucharest is playing on Saturday against the Hungarian team Ferencvaros, away from home, in the Champions League Group A. In the first leg of the round, the Romanians won 25-19. CSM Bucharest ranks 2nd in Group A with 11 points, with Ferencvaros coming 4th with 8 points. On Sunday, Romanian women’s handball champions SCM Ramnicu Valcea, take on several times European champions Györ, in the competition’s Group B. The Romanian team is 8th in the group, with no points after 5 games.
US The outgoing US president Donald Trump announced on Friday that he will not take part in the inauguration of president-elect Joe Biden. Trump will be the second US president to decline attending his successor’s inauguration, after Andrew Johnson in 1869. The announcement came hours after Trump had promised a smooth transition for president-elect Joe Biden's administration, in a video posted on Twitter where he said he was 'outraged by the lawlessness, violence and mayhem' caused by his supporters who stormed the US Capitol. In Congress, the Democrats called on Vice-president Mike Pence to use the 25th amendment to remove Trump in the wake of the violent events on January 6th, in which 5 people were killed. The US Capitol’s security chief and other members of his administration resigned following the riot, in order to protest the violence. (tr. A.M. Popescu)