Ascending trend in the COVID crisis in Romania
This week, Romania has reached its peak in terms of COVID-19 cases reported over 24 hours. On Thursday, 19,000 cases were registered, more than in any other previous waves. Mortality is still up to ten times lower than October, when infections were comparable. The level of interest in vaccination continues to be low, but relatively constant, with around 4,000 people getting their first dose per day. So far, over 8 million people have gotten their first dose, with a rate of inoculation of the eligible population of people over 12 years of age being above 47.5%. This figure was provided on Thursday by the coordinator of the vaccination campaign, physician Valeriu Gheorghita. Meanwhile, Health Minister Alexandru Rafila said that innovative anti-viral treatments will become available in the country soon. In hospitals, the rate of occupancy for COVID patients is 22%, so schools can continue to function in person starting next week.
Warning strike in education, full on strike in transportation in Bucharest
Trade unions in the Romanian education system have resumed their protests with a warning strike that lasted two hours. Employees are calling on the government to provide them with a base salary established by a 2017 law, according to which they were supposed to get a 16% raise two years ago. Unionists are also calling on 6% of the GDP to be allocated to education, bonuses for difficult working conditions, overtime, and more teaching staff being hired. Education Minister Sorin Cimpeanu said that the demands are pertinent, but called on teachers to be patient, considering that the teaching system is being affected by the epidemic context. Unhappy with stagnant salaries, drivers of buses, trolley buses, and trams in Bucharest went on a general strike, affecting hundreds of thousands of inhabitants of the capital city.
New measures to curb the rise in energy bills
The government in Bucharest is taking two lines in lowering energy bills – the ceiling will be lowered, and the consumption limit will rise. These measures, for individual and business consumption, were convened by the governing coalition partners, and will apply from February 1 to March 31. The ceiling for electricity will curb the prices from 1 leu to 0.8 lei per kW, while the limit of consumption for which this ceiling applies will go up from 300 to 500 kW. For small and medium sized businesses, the ceiling will be 1 leu per kW. The natural gas price ceiling will go down from 0.37 to 0.31 lei per kW, with the ceiling of consumption going up from 1,000 to 1,500 kW. At the same time, bills that were issued faultily will be recalculated, and people who did not pay energy bills cannot be cut off or penalized. These measures will come into effect through an emergency executive order, which is to be issued next week.
A national plan for cancer prevention
A National Plan for Cancer Prevention was issued in Bucharest, setting realistic and measurable aims, defining a standardized chart for the patient, with emphasis on encouraging and supplementing of medical investigations. In February last year, the EC launched a European plan for combating cancer, allocating 4 billion Euros for prevention programs as well as research and treatment within the Union. As a result, Romania has created a working group for applying legislatively this European plan. At this point, Romania has a national cancer prevention plan in its national healthcare insurance system, which subsidizes a part of treatments and tests, as well as a number of other prevention programs under the Ministry of Health. President Klaus Iohannis said that, at this point, there are opportunities, as well as means, of rethinking the healthcare system overall, which is vulnerable due to lack of proper investment over the last few decades.
Romania in the NATO-Russia equation
On Thursday, President Klaus Iohannis saluted the announcement made by his American counterpart, Joe Biden, regarding a boost in the American military presence in Romania, NATO's eastern most flank, in case of a worsening security situation. On Twitter, President Iohannis wrote that the Romania-US strategic partnership and NATO solidarity were very strong. At the same time, he said that the Romanian-French strategic partnership will be strengthened in the Black Sea area, after French President Emmanuel Macron said that France is available to bolster NATO's military presence in Romania. These messages come against the background of heightened tensions in Eastern Europe, with Russia massing over 100,000 troops on the Ukraine border, demanding guarantees that NATO do not expand eastward, and also demanding that it withdraw troops from its eastern member states, Romania among them.
Technical and financial assistance for the Republic of Moldova
The government in Bucharest endorsed a memorandum to grant continued financial and technical assistance to the Republic of Moldova in various areas, in order to support its aspirations to join the EU. This is an important and necessary decision, considering that the agreement to this end, signed on April 27, 2010, expired on March 28, 2021. This decision was paramount in order to open up negotiations for a new agreement for implementing an aid program centered around financial assistance worth 100 million Euros.