The COVID situation in Romania
Over the last two weeks, Romania has seen a rising trend in COVID-19 infections, according to data from the National Public Health Institute, updated on Wednesday. Aggregate data indicates that in most counties and the capital Bucharest the rate of incidence is over one hundred cases per hundred thousand inhabitants, with most cases in urban areas. So far, over 790,000 cases of infection have been confirmed across the country. Of these, over 730,000 cases have been declared cured. The number of deaths associated with the infection is over 20,000 since the beginning of the pandemic. In terms of vaccination, on Wednesday the campaign for immunizing teachers was launched. Its aim is to vaccinate over 60,000 of them by March 10, in addition to the 42,000 already immunized. Data from the EU shows that the rate of vaccination in Romania is one of the best, in fact it is in third place in these terms. One big concern at this point is the spread of the British variant of the coronavirus, and the authorities in Bucharest are relying on a specific methodology to identify in time the emergence in the country of new mutations. The coordinator of the national vaccination campaign, Valeriu Gheorghita, said that he could not rule out a third wave of coronavirus, given how contagious the new strands are, a fact agreed upon by public health authorities. Starting Friday, the authorities have changed the way in which they calculate the rate of incidence, including the flashpoints in each locality. Interior Ministry Undersecretary Raed Arafat explained that if no such spread events occur in a locality, the incidence should be insignificant
Romanian Klaus Iohannis attends by videoconferece the extraordinary meeting of the European Council
On Thursday and Friday, the European Council held an extraordinary meeting by videoconference, and Romania was represented by President Klaus Iohannis. The virtual session on Thursday was dedicated to managing the pandemic, while the one on Friday was dedicated to security and defense. Heads of state and government of member states appealed to maintaining firm restrictions and accelerating vaccination in order to prevent new variants of the virus, without managing to overcome their dissensions regarding a vaccination passport. The heads of state call on the European Council to create a report on strategic reserves by June, to ensure adequate manufacturing of vaccines in the EU, and to diversify and improve the global chains of supply for medical equipment.
Parliament debates 2021 budget
Romania's budget for state and social insurance expenditure for 2021 is under debate by Parliament starting Thursday. The plenary vote on the two separate bills will be held Tuesday. Previously, the lower chamber, as decision maker, had passed, on Wednesday, after the Senate vote, the ceiling bill. The latter sets the ceiling for the GDP deficit at 7.16%, and state employee expenditure at 9.8%. Minister of Finance Alexandru Nazare said that the budget for 2021 is one meant for relaunching, and that it is robust, balanced, and realistic. He emphasized that taxes would not be raised. The Social Democratic opposition criticized the budget bill, which it said was one of austerity, of impoverishment of the population, and of constraints by freezing of salaries.
Financial protests and gripes
Trade unions this week protested against austerity measures. The Publisind Federation, affiliated to the the National Union Bloc, representing 35,000 employees in many sectors, picketed the Presidency, calling on scrubbing the public system of salary inequities, applying fairly the framework rules for state employee wages, and a minimum wage correlated with the cost of living. The Ministry of Transportation saw protests too: train engine mechanics were asking for investments to modernize railway infrastructure and lifting speed restrictions. In turn, the miners in the main mining area of the country, Jiu Vally, have ceased their protests after the authorities in Bucharest found a solution for payment of wages, which the Hunedoara Energy Complex had not paid on time. The government issued an order that allows payment of back salaries for companies in insolvency, such as the Complex, which has been in a critical situation for over a year. The solution found at the negotiations in Bucharest ensures three months worth of wages, time in which the company has to submit a plant that would ensure its long term functioning.
President endorses bill to eliminate special pensions for Parliament
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis endorsed on Wednesday the bill that eliminates special pensions for Parliament members, which passed Parliament last week. All the parties, with the exception of the Hungarian Union, which abstained, voted in favor of the bill introduced by the opposition Social Democrats to eliminate special pensions. The bill would put an end current payments as well. 800 former MPs currently have the benefit of these special pensions, worth almost 10 million Euro every year, paid out of the state budget.