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Commission approves €4.4 million Romanian aid scheme to compensate regional airport operators for damage suffered due to coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved, under EU state aid rules, a RON 21.3 million (approximately €4.4m) Romanian aid scheme to compensate Romanian regional airport operators for the damage suffered due to the coronavirus outbreak. In order to limit the spread of the coronavirus, on 16 March 2020, Romania imposed the gradual suspension of most of the commercial flights to and from Romania. Due to those flight bans as well as flight restrictions in other countries, the airlines operating at Romanian regional airports gradually reduced their scheduled flights, culminating in the total cessation of their operations on 25 March 2020. Until 17 June 2020, no scheduled international commercial flights took place at such airports, leaving passenger traffic close to zero.

Air traffic started resuming only as of July 2020. Under the scheme, which will be open to operators of Romanian airports with an annual passenger traffic between 200,000 and 3 million, the Romanian authorities will be able to compensate those airports for the net losses suffered during the period between 16 March and 30 June 2020. as a result of the restrictive measures on international and domestic air passenger services implemented by Romania and other countries.

The support will take the form of direct grants. The Commission assessed the measure under Article 107(2)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which enables the Commission to approve state aid measures granted by member states to compensate companies for the damage directly caused by exceptional occurrences, such as the coronavirus outbreak. The Commission found that the Romanian scheme will provide compensation for damage that is directly linked to the coronavirus outbreak. It also found that the measure is proportionate, as the compensation does not exceed what is necessary to make good the damage.

On this basis, the Commission concluded that the scheme is in line with EU state aid rules. More information on actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.58676 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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Latest on worldwide spread of the coronavirus

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The world is on the brink of “catastrophic moral failure” in sharing COVID-19 vaccines, the head of the World Health Organization said, urging countries and manufacturers to spread doses more fairly, write Milla Nissi and Krishna Chandra Eluri.

EUROPE

- France is on track to reach its target of vaccinating 1 million people by the end of January and has enough doses to increase the total to 2.4 million by the end of February.

- Russia plans to vaccinate more than 20 million people in the first quarter of this year, deputy prime minister said.

- Britain’s vaccine rollout is limited by a “lumpy” manufacturing process with production changes by Pfizer and a delay by AstraZeneca that could lead to brief supply disruption, vaccine deployment minister said.

- Germany’s health minister said new measures would be needed to slow the spread of new, more infectious variants of the virus, including more health checks for cross-border commuters and intensified gene sequencing of virus samples.

- Austria, Greece and Denmark will jointly pressure the European Medicines Agency to approve AstraZeneca’s vaccine as quickly as possible.

- Health authorities quarantined two hotels and closed ski schools in the Swiss resort of St Moritz to try to curb an outbreak of a highly infectious coronavirus variant.

ASIA-PACIFIC

- Japan’s prime minister vowed to forge ahead with preparations to hold the Tokyo Olympics this summer, in the face of growing public opposition.

China reported more than 100 new cases for the sixth consecutive day, with rising infections in the northeast fuelling concern of another wave when hundreds of millions of people travel for the Lunar New Year holiday.

- Singapore urged workers at its national airline to help make it the world’s first carrier with all staff vaccinated against COVID-19.

- Two private hospitals in Thailand have ordered millions of doses of vaccines ahead of regulatory approval, adding to government orders of vaccines.

- Australia may not fully reopen its international borders this year even if most of the population is vaccinated against COVID-19, the head of its health department said as the country recorded zero local cases.

- Problems mounted ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament as more players were forced into hard quarantine.

AMERICAS

- U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s goal of delivering 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine within the first 100 days of his presidency “is absolutely a doable thing”, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Sunday.

- Brazil’s federal government will distribute all vaccine doses it has available to the states on Monday afternoon, a day after approving emergency use of vaccines from China’s Sinovac Biotech and Britain’s AstraZeneca.

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

- South Africa, which has yet to receive its first coronavirus vaccine, has been promised 9 million doses by Johnson & Johnson, the Business Day newspaper reported.

- Ghana’s infection rates are skyrocketing and include variants of the virus not before seen in the country, filling treatment centres and threatening to overwhelm the health system, its president said on Sunday.

MEDICAL DEVELOPMENTS

- Germany’s health minister urged Pfizer to stick to its commitments on delivery volumes and dates after the company announced a temporary reduction in deliveries.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

- Global stock markets sank as soaring COVID-19 cases offset investor hopes of a quick economic recovery, while the Chinese economy posted a better-than-expected rebound in the fourth quarter of 2020.

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Commission approves €8 million Slovak scheme to support professional sport clubs in the context of coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved a €8 million Slovak scheme to support sport clubs participating in professional leagues in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The scheme was approved under the state aid Temporary Framework. The public support will take the form of direct grants to companies that have experienced a significant decline in revenue due to the coronavirus outbreak and the measures imposed by the Government to limit the spread of the virus. The scheme aims to address the liquidity needs of the beneficiaries and to help them to continue their activities during and after the outbreak.

The Commission found that the scheme is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, the support (i) will not exceed €800,000 per company; and (ii) will be granted until no later than 30 June 2021. The Commission concluded that the measure is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU. On this basis, the Commission approved the measure under EU state aid rules.

More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case numbers SA.60212 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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Coronavirus response: €45 million to support Opolskie region in Poland in fighting the pandemic

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The European Commission has adopted the modification of the operational programme for the Opolskie region in Poland allowing for the reallocation of €45 million to tackle the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Cohesion and Reforms Commissioner Elisa Ferreira said: “Opolskie is joining the other Polish regions in making the best use of EU resources to support member states tackling the health, social and economic adverse effects of the pandemic. We are making every effort to invest EU funds where they are most needed.”

Around €19m will be directed providing working capital to SMEs, while nearly €26m will support the setting up of social couriers for dependent, lonely and people with disabilities as well as the purchase of new equipment for hospitals. Lastly, funds will be reallocated to strengthen digital education in the region. The modification was possible thanks to the exceptional flexibility guaranteed under the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative (CRII) and Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative Plus (CRII+), which allow member states to use Cohesion policy funding to support the sectors most exposed to the pandemic. For more information on the EU Cohesion policy response to the coronavirus crisis visit the Coronavirus Dashboard.

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