COVID-19 In Romania, the Strategic Communication Group informed on Monday that the number of infections with the new coronavirus had been growing in the past days. According to the Group, observing the sanitation norms is the only guarantee that the relaxation measures taken so far can be maintained and other measures aimed at allowing more social and economic activities can be taken safely. According to the latest data reported by the Group, some 22,100 cases of infection have been reported in Romania so far. More than 15,800 patients have recovered and 175 are in intensive care. So far, 1427 people have died of Covid-19 in Romania. Around 3,400 Romanian nationals living abroad have tested positive for the coronavirus, mostly in Italy, Germany and Spain, and 114 of them have died. Romania is currently in a new stage of relaxation with regard to the measures taken against Covid-19.
PANDEMIC The worldwide death toll of the COVID-19 pandemic so far is over 435,000, out of almost 8 million cases. More than half of the patients have recovered. The US remains the worst hit country, with over 2.1 million cases and nearly 118,000 deaths, followed by Brazil, Russia, India, the UK, Spain and Italy. Europe, which was the second region hit by the pandemic, takes advantage of the more stable situation and continues to ease restrictions and to open internal borders. Italy, once the worst hit country in Europe and in the world, on Monday moved to a 3rd stage in lifting restrictions. Also on Monday, Slovenia, Germany and Austria opened their borders with Italy, with the first flights to Italian airports. Bulgaria is also lifting some of the COVID-19 related restrictions, although it faces an increase in the number of new cases, which raises fears of a second wave of the pandemic.
EXAMS Over 161,000 Romanian students graduating secondary schools this year on Monday sat for the first exam part of the National Evaluation, which is a prerequisite for high school enrolment. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, this year the exams are held in special circumstances. Healthcare personnel are taking children's temperature and every school is equipped with decontamination mats, protective face masks and biocide substances to use on floors, doorknobs, desks and chairs. Children are not allowed to bring any bags or backpacks into the examination rooms and are seated 2m from each other during the exam. The students who are self-isolating, quarantined, hospitalized, and those who had a temperature above 37.3 degrees Celsius on the exam day, as well as those suffering from conditions that may be worsened by the novel coronavirus will take the exams in a special session between June 22 and July 4.
TERM The term of office of the local elected officials has been extended until November 1st, according to a decision made on Monday by the Romanian Chamber of Deputies, which is the decision-making forum on this matter. The extension was supported by the opposition Social Democratic Party, the Save Romania Union, the Democratic Union of Ethnic Hungarians and People's Movement Party. The ruling National Liberal Party abstained. The document, which had been endorsed by the Senate as well, will be sent to the country's president for promulgation. The bill was supposed to be adopted in Parliament by means of an emergency procedure, given that the current term expires on June 21st. Among other things, the document stipulates that the date for local elections shall be set by Parliament by means of an organic law, not by means of a government decision. The governing National Liberal Party asked for the elimination of this article, saying it could be challenged at the Constitutional Court. The request was rejected and the Liberal Senators abstained from voting. We recall that the bill was tabled in parliament as a result of an understanding between the Social Democratic Party, the National Liberal Party and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats.
DIPLOMACY On Monday, the Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu participated in an informal video-conference of the EU foreign ministers, which was also attended by the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. According to a press release in Bucharest, the talks focused on the importance of the partnership between the EU and the US and boosting cooperation in relation to major current issues, such as the management of the pandemic, the relation with China, the Middle East Peace Process and the Eastern Neighborhood. The Romanian Foreign Minister stressed the fact that a solid American presence should be maintained in the areas affected by conflicts, especially in the eastern neighborhood. As regards the Middle East Peace Process, Aurescu said the recent peace plan proposed by the US was a major contribution that could lead to a renewed dynamics towards achieving stability and lasting peace in the region.
MEASURES The Romanian airline TAROM announced the resumption of flights to and from several EU countries. As of Monday, flights to Athens are to be operated in normal conditions, while flights to Vienna, Frankfurt and Munich are also scheduled this week. Quarantine or self-isolation is also no longer required for the Romanian citizens arriving from 17 European countries (Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Croatia, Switzerland, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Malta, Norway, Slovakia, Slovenia and Hungary).
BREXIT The UK and the EU agreed on Monday in a video conference that a new impetus is needed in the talks on the post-Brexit relations. London and Brussels support the negotiated plans to boost talks in July and create the most favourable conditions for concluding and ratifying an agreement before the end of this year, according to a joint statement released at the end of the talks between the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the EU leaders, the EC President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel. The talks, the first at this level, are taking place in the context of blocked negotiations between the UK and the EU regarding a new agreement, six months before the end of the transition period. Experts believe that a failure of negotiations between the EU and the UK, which left the Union on January 31st, would potentially have devastating economic effects, aggravated even more by the crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.
PLATFORM The European Commission on Monday launched a web platform called 'Re-open EU', dedicated to supporting the safe resumption of travel and tourism across Europe, according to a press release from the EU executive body. The platform will provide real-time information on borders and the availability of transport and tourism services in the Member States. 'Re-open EU' will also contain practical information provided by Member States on travel restrictions, public health and safety measures, such as physical distance or wearing masks, as well as other useful information such as tourist offers from each country and the EU. Thus, Europeans will be able to plan their summer holidays and longer trips taking into account the persistent risks associated with the new coronavirus. Through an interactive map, the platform will allow citizens to see country-specific information, find out how the situation is evolving and consult travel recommendations for each Member State. It will be easily accessible through the application or website, and will be available in the 24 official languages of the EU. (M.Ignatescu)