Accelerated vaccination, tougher restrictions, and protests in Romania
President Klaus Iohannis urged Romanians once again to vaccinate and trust the benefits of immunization. At the same time, the head of state said that Romania will receive a significant number of anti-Covid vaccine doses, allowing the campaign to be accelerated. Since its start, on the 27th of December 2020, over three million doses have been administrated to over two million persons. This means that over a million Romanians have received the second dose as well. At the same time, Romania approaches a million infections with the novel coronavirus, with over 6,000 new cases every day of this week. The most new cases continue to be registered in the capital, but the highest rate of infections over the last few days has been in the surrounding county of Ilfov. About a third of Romanian counties have a rate of infection of over three cases per thousand. The number of deaths and emergency ward admissions is rising, with record numbers every day, and the authorities are calling on the population to observe hygiene rules. As in most European states, Romania has instituted new restrictions for combating Covid 19. In the areas where incidence is over four per thousand, the curfew on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays starts at 8 PM instead of 10 PM, as in the rest of the week. Also on those days, stores shut down at 6 PM. Measures apply across the week in places where the incidence is over 7.5 cases per thousand. In this context, in Bucharest and other cities across the country protests were held against restrictions. Participants shouted slogans against the authorities, and called for abolishing mask requirements in public, as well as opening schools, restaurants, and gyms. The authorities, however, said that Romania was in a third wave of the pandemic, and that all the measures above are required to contain the accelerated spread of the coronavirus, and that they would maintain restrictions.
Romanian-American diplomatic discussions
Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had a phone conversation on Tuesday, discussing, among other things, Romania's contribution to NATO, energy security, and the rule of law. The head of diplomacy in Bucharest assured his counterpart that Romania would continue to be a trusted and strong partner for the US, as well as a dedicated NATO ally. At the same time, Secretary Blinken lauded Romania for being a robust NATO ally and for its commitment to the security of the Black Sea area. According to the Foreign Ministry, the American official expressed his country's appreciation for the progress made by Bucharest in enforcing the rule of law, reform in the justice system, and fighting corruption, all of which are relevant at the regional level as well. At the same time, the US criticized corruption in Romania again, in the first report on human rights issued by the Biden administration. The 2020 report indicates, among other things, that there is widespread corruption at an official level. Even if the legal system took measures to prosecute and punish officials who committed illegalities, the authorities did not have effective means of applying punishments, and delayed procedures against police abuse and corruption, which led to many cases being dismissed. The document also notes that many local or national institutions in Romania are directly or indirectly controlled by politically connected people, and that generally speaking Romanians do not respect the police, considering it corrupt and feckless. At the same time, the report also notes that violence against women and children is still a serious and persistent problem in Romania.
A third simple motion filed by Social Democrats against the cabinet is rejected
On Wednesday, the lower chamber of Parliament in Bucharest rejected the simple motion filed by the opposition Social Democrats against Minister of Agriculture Adrian Oros, with 115 yea votes and 166 nay votes. The representatives of the opposition populist and ultra-nationalist AUR party was in favor of the move. The Social Democrats accuse Adrian Oros that, after 17 months of governing, the agrarian sector is in its bleakest period due to his 'incompetence and amateurism'. They also accuse him of not taking measures to compensate farmers affected by the drought, and not doling out excises for fuel. In reply, the minister said that Romania loses annually a billion Euro because of measures taken by the Social Democrats when they were in government. This is the third simple motion filed by the latter party in this Parliament session. The other two, filed against the ministers of health and the economy did not pass through the legislative body either.
Zero games won by Romanian football teams
Romania's national football team was defeated by the Armenian squad 3-2 on Wednesday night in Yerevan. The game counted towards Group J of next year's World Cup preliminaries. With a victory against Northern Macedonia and two defeats facing Germany and Armenia, Romania is in fourth place. At the same time, Romania's youth team missed in Budapest the qualification for the finals of the Under 21 European Championships, after tying with a blank score against Germany, in its last game in Group A.