COVID-19 Romania saw 9,272 new coronavirus cases on Friday, with the total number now passing 400,000. 160 new deaths were also reported, the death toll now standing at 9,765. Around 70% of the COVID-19 patients in Romania have so far recovered. Bucharest has run out of intensive care beds and a number of patients were taken to hospitals in other cities. The capacity of ICUs is set to increase in the forthcoming period, health minister Nelu Tătaru said. Local lockdowns were imposed in places with a spike in cases. President Klaus Iohannis announced that on Monday he would have talks with the health, defence and interior ministers, to clarify all the aspects related to the anti-COVID-19 vaccination campaign, which he sees as a matter of national security. He added that the latest data allows for “moderated optimism,” and called for strict observance of the measures introduced by the authorities.
PANDEMIC Global coronavirus cases passed 57.5 million and fatalities 1.3 million, with over 39 million patients recovered so far, according to Worldometers.info. US president elect Joe Biden said he would not order a national lockdown to fight the pandemic, despite cases soaring in the US over the last few weeks. The country has so far reported over 12 million cases and at least 258,000 deaths. The president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said the Union could approve two Covid vaccines by the end of the year, made by Pfizer and BioNTech and Moderna. South Tyrol, an autonomous province in northern Italy, Friday started a massive screening campaign, with 70% of the population to be tested. In turn, Austria announced mass testing in December and January, to prevent new lockdown periods. The Regional Director for Europe at the World Health Organisation, Hans Kluge, said one person dies every 17 seconds from Covid-19 in Europe, where the general mortality rate rose by almost one-fifth in the last two weeks.
FACE MASKS Romania has so far issued four safety notifications for non-conforming face masks made in China, the National Consumer Protection Authority said Friday. The products in question are not certified as protective equipment by a relevant body, so it is possible they do not meet the health and safety requirements in place. The notifications were received by the EU rapid alert system for non-food products, also known as RAPEX. The authorities have recommended that such products be withdrawn from the market and have warned sellers to consult the consumer protection and RAPEX websites before marketing them to make sure they are not banned. Recently, the National Consumer Protection Authority withdrew over 31 million protective face masks after checks conducted across the country.
EU BUDGET EU leaders meeting in video conference format on Thursday night failed to reach a breakthrough in talks on the bloc's future multiannual budget, following opposition from Hungary, Poland and Slovenia, who don't agree with the idea of linking funding to the rule of law. The EU leaders also discussed the management of the coronavirus pandemic with a focus on the mutual recognition of the results of Covid tests, the progress made in developing a vaccine and a joint approach to lifting restrictions. Romania was represented by president Klaus Iohannis, who, prior to the meting, had a telephone conversation with German chancellor Angela Merkel. Iohannis said Romania constantly supported the need to finalise the talks on the EU multiannual budget and the economic recovery plan as soon as possible. He also emphasised that the mutual recognition of Covid tests facilitates free movement within the EU and called for an efficient communication campaign with respect to vaccination against the novel coronavirus.
COOPERATION The EU is looking forward to working with the US president-elect, Joe Biden, on issues like the coronavirus pandemic and climate change, the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen told a press conference on Friday. She also voiced hopes that the G20 summit due this weekend will be “a new beginning for multilateralism”. "And while the United States has resisted engaging on this topic so far. I'm very hopeful now with the new president elect that this will change," the EU official also said, although the summit will be attended by the outgoing president Donald Trump. Ursula von der Leyen said she would call on the Union’s G20 partners to step up economic efforts to provide access to COVID-19 vaccine and treatment for poorer countries as well. The goal is to purchase 2 billion vaccine doses for countries with below-average revenues, the EU executive said.
HANDBALL The Romanian women's handball side CSM Bucharest on Thursday night lost to the Russian side Rostov on Don in a Champions League Group A match. CSM were initially due to play at the weekend against SC BBM Bietigheim from Germany, but the match was postponed after the German side was quarantined. This was the CSM's final match in 2020, finishing the year second in their group behind Rostov. In Group B, CSM Râmnicu Vâlcea have lost all of their matches so far and will not be playing another match this year. The competition breaks up after this weekend for the European Championships held in Denmark and will be resumed in January. (translated by: A.M. Popescu)