VACCINE A new batch of over 163,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine reaches Romania today. This is the third COVID-19 vaccine available in EU member states, and was introduced in Romania this week. According to the National Vaccination Coordination Committee, since the start of the vaccination programme in Romania on December 27, over 1.2 million doses have been administered. Most people have received the Pfizer vaccine, and the others doses produced by Moderna, available in Romania since February 4. Meanwhile, 3,058 new SARS-CoV-2 cases were reported in the past 24 hours. 71 people died and 936 patients are in intensive care.
DEFENCE The Romanian defence minister Nicolae Ciucă, taking part in a meeting of NATO defence ministers, pointed out Romania’s commitment to covering defence expenditure. He reaffirmed Bucharest’s support for deepening and strengthening NATO’s defence and deterrence posture, in line with medium and long-term security requirements. NATO’s secretary general Jens Stoltenberg suggested the Alliance should increase funding for joint defence and deterrence activities. One of the reasons for suggesting increased NATO funding for deterrence and defence is that this will incentivise more Allies to provide more capabilities, especially in the Baltic and Black Sea regions, the NATO chief explained. Jens Stoltenberg also said the Alliance needs to invest more in new technologies, including artificial intelligence and quantum computing.
BRANCUSI A number of events devoted to the Constantin Brâncuşi National Day, celebrated every year in Romania on February 19, are organised across the country this week, to mark 145 years since the great sculptor’s birth. On Friday, the “Tinerimea Română” National Art Centre will host a special concert devoted to the occasion, and illustrated with images of Brancusi’s works on display at the National Museum of Art. Also on Friday, an exhibition entitled “Mirrors of Brâncuşi” opens at the Romanian Peasant Museum. On Saturday, the National Library has an event entitled “Dialogues at the table of silence: 145 years since the birth of sculptor Constantin Brâncuşi”. The event is held online, on Zoom platform, and can also be followed on the Youtube channel of the National Library of Romania. In turn, the Romanian Cultural Institutes in Bucharest, Brussels, Chişinău, Lisbon, London, Madrid and Paris have scheduled online events devoted to the world-famous Romanian artist.
PROTESTS Over one hundred workers at the Lupeni coal mine in Valea Jiului (central-western Romania) are carrying on the sit-in protest initiated yesterday. Their salaries are nearly 10 days late although the union signed a protocol in this respect with the Hunedoara Power Compound management. Meanwhile, leaders of coal mining trade unions convene to find legal methods to step up salary payments. Yesterday, protests were staged by Cartel Alfa and Solidaritatea Sanitara trade unions, both in front of the government headquarters and of parties in the ruling coalition. Trade unions are unhappy with the 2021 state budget bill, which they say will extend the economic crisis and will drive down living standards. Railway workers also picketed the government head offices on Tuesday and Wednesday, demanding investments and salary increases in the railway sector.
PANDEMIC The European Commission announced a deal was signed with Moderna for an additional 150 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, to be delivered this year, and confirmed a previous agreement on the purchase of another 200 million doses of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. On Wednesday, the Commission also unveiled plans to monitor SARS-CoV-2 variants, to step up the approval of vaccines against such variants and to strengthen vaccine production capabilities in Europe. The EC initiated a bio-defence preparedness plan called “Hera Incubator”, targeting new coronavirus variants that threaten to reduce the efficacy of current vaccination campaigns. Moreover, the EC president Ursula von der Leyen announced the Commission boosts measures against the growing number of COVID-19 vaccine frauds. In turn, the UN secretary general Antonio Guterres called on G20 to set up a “global vaccination plan” so that no country is left behind in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. (tr. A.M. Popescu)