COVID-19 In Romania, the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues, with around 700,000 people immunised since December 27. Over 1.1 million doses have been given so far, most of them produced by Pfizer/BioNTech, followed by Moderna, and on Monday people also started receiving AstraZeneca vaccines. According to the authorities, Romania comes 6th in the EU by total number of vaccine doses administered. Meanwhile, the total number of SARS-CoV-2 cases reported in the country since the start of the pandemic is over 763,000. 709,520 people have recovered, and nearly 19,500 died. As of Monday, new rules are in place for travellers coming into Romania from yellow-zone countries.
PROTESTS Fresh trade union protests are taking place in Romania. On Monday Sanitas Federation picketed the head offices of the Finance Ministry, demanding a higher budget for investments in public hospitals and healthcare staff salaries. Union members say the funds earmarked this year to the healthcare sector to be insufficient, given the pandemic. Protesters then moved in front of the Parliament building. In turn, Cartel Alfa union announced protests at the end of the month, to demand decent minimum wages, fair pension benefits, high-quality public services, resuming collective bargaining, fair taxation and proper enforcement of the law.
MOTION Romania’s parliament is discussing the first simple motion in the current term in office. The motion targets the health minister Vlad Voiculescu, of the USR PLUS Alliance, a partner in the ruling coalition. Entitled "Lack of competence and and of responsibility kills people. Vlad Voiculescu—a threat to Romanians’health," the motion was tabled in the Chamber of Deputies by the Social Democrats in opposition, less than 2 months since the cabinet headed by the Liberal Florin Cîţu came to power. The Social Democrats accuse the new minister of failing to take the necessary measures to prevent the fire that killed patients in a Bucharest hospital. They also claim Voiculescu has not had enough COVID-19 testing centres for citizens. The health minister replied the Social Democrats are the ones to blame for the disaster in Romania’s healthcare sector, and added that 3 of that party’s former ministers are under investigation for corruption. The USR-PLUS co-president Dan Barna said the Alliance is firmly supporting all its cabinet members, while the Liberal leader Ludovic Orban says the Liberals will vote against the motion on Wednesday.
HOSPITALITY Many European countries are adopting the holiday voucher system to support the hospitality industry, recovering after the losses incurred during the SARS-COV-2 pandemic, whereas in Romania these vouchers are scrapped without sound reasons, Romanian tourism employers say in a news release. Last week PM Florin Cîţu announced that the holiday vouchers for this year would be issued in 2022, to the discontent of hospitality businesses, which argue that this would deepen the crisis faced by this industry. Representatives of the sector had a meeting on Monday with the economy minister Claudiu Năsui, who said the government has earmarked funds to support the industry but that holiday vouchers cannot be issued this year.
BUDGET The Romanian government wants the budget bill currently under public debate to get Parliament’s approval by February 20th along with the amendments accompanying it, including an emergency order cancelling holiday vouchers and other one freezing pensions to the level of last year. According to the government, the present draft budget is set to lay the foundations for a multi-annual approach of the reforms and public finances with a gradual reduction of the deficit from 7.16% this year to 3.4% in 2024. At the same time, the budget targets investments of 5.5% of the GDP, the largest so far. According to Prime Minister Citu, the bill has support from the European Commission, which provides the biggest part of the funds for reform and investments.
ECONOMY The EU industrial output dropped 1.2% in December 2020, compared to the previous month, according to data released on Monday by the European statistics office (Eurostat). The biggest monthly increases were reported in Denmark (2.4%), Portugal (1.8%), Estonia and Luxembourg (1.6%) and România (0.9%), and the most severe decline in Hungary (negative 2.5%). For the entire year 2020 compared to 2019, the Union’s industrial output fell by 8%. Meanwhile, in December 2020 the EU reported roughly 30 billion euros in trade balance surplus, as against roughly 22 billion euros in 2019. As regards Romania, in 2020 its exports fell by 10%, to nearly 62 billion euros, while imports dropped 7%, to 80.5 billion euros, leading to a trade deficit of 18.7 billion euros compared to 17.6 billion the previous year.
TENNIS The world's number two tennis player, Romanian Simona Halep is to take on Serena Williams in the quarter finals of the Australian Open. The American has 9-2 wins in head-to-head matches although Simona won a major Wimbledon tournament in 2019. In the doubles eighth finals, the Romanian-Brazilian pair Horia Tecau/Marcelo Melo lost to Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Filip Polasek of Slovakia 4-6, 3-6. (tr. A.M. Popescu)