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Bucharest tests large scale music event amid pandemic concerns

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The Romanian capital hosted over the weekend the first large scale music festival since the pandemic started over a year-and-a-half ago, writes Cristian Gherasim, Bucharest correspondent.

For music lovers, the event proved to be a glimmer of hope, bringing back a pre-COVID feeling, before the pandemic restrictions canceled or limited such large scale gatherings.

Over the course of this year, Romania gradually opened up to music festivals scheduled to take part in 2020 but pushed back when the pandemic hit and canceled such gatherings.

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Close to 40.000 people from both Romania and abroad coalesced over the weekend to attend the SAGA Festival – an international electronic dance music event making its debut in the Romanian capital.

The event organizers allowed access based on strict COVID requirements necessary for these kind of gatherings: the EU Digital Covid Certificate- proof that the person has either been vaccinated, received a negative test result, or recovered from Covid-19, a recent PCR test no older than 72h, or a test done on the spot prior to entry valid for 24h.

The festival tested the authority’s ability to cope with the influx of people coming for the music event and to make sure that the large gathering of festival goers doesn’t add to the number of new COVID cases.

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In the first case, Bucharest authorities proved unable to streamline traffic, resulting in the northern part of the Romanian capital experiencing standstill traffic for several hours, with many locals voicing their anger against local authorities. A video posted on social media shows a city brought to a halt by traffic restrictions and authorities’ inability to cope with the influx of people.

Bucharest is trying to deal with a spike in the number of COVID cases after the quiet summer months. Over the past weeks Romania’s capital city saw an increase in the number of cases as ICU beds are quickly filling up. Countrywide, daily new Covid cases have jumped from less than 100 during the summer, to over 2,000.

The festival is scheduled to return next year as this year’s edition was well received by music lovers.

But in the meantime local and national authorities need to weather what looks increasingly as a 4th wave of the pandemic taking hold across the country.

Romania has one of the lowest vaccination-rates in the EU, pushing authorities to sell an excess of around two million vaccines, and donate close to another one million - to avoid unused stocks from hitting their expiration date. Last week, authorities sold another batch of jabs, over 1.5 million to South Korea.

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EU Digital COVID Certificate: Commission awards €95 million to boost access to tests

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The Commission has awarded grants to 20 member states totalling €95 million to purchase COVID-19 diagnostic tests to facilitate the delivery of the EU Digital COVID Certificate. This goes hand-in-hand with the continued roll-out of COVID-19 vaccinations and is part of the Commission's commitment to support affordable access to fast and accurate testing for those citizens who have not yet been fully vaccinated, in particular those who cannot get vaccinated due to medical reasons.

The grants, financed through its Emergency Support Instrument (ESI), will allow member states to provide tests. This support, channelled through the national authorities, will cater for the various needs in the different member states. Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said: “The EU Digital COVID Certificate allowed Europeans to resume safe travelling over the summer and has become a symbol of an open and safe Europe. Whilst vaccination is key and our strongest asset to put an end to the pandemic, fast and accurate testing remains important to tackle the spread of COVID-19. The 20 million rapid tests we purchased for member states earlier this year and today's announcements of additional funds prove that we stand firm on our commitment to ensure that citizens have access to tests and that our digital certificates are available for everyone, in particular those who cannot get vaccinated.”

Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said: “Over 400 million Europeans have so far benefited from the Certificate, and 42 countries are already linked to the EU certificate system. This is a major European achievement which has been highly valued by our citizens. Today's grants will further contribute to the use of the certificates and ensure that people can continue to move freely and safely. I welcome this decision and I call on the 20 member states to make the best use of those additional tests.”

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The ESI provides a needs‐based, co-ordinated emergency response to help member states address needs related to the immediate acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the exit, recovery and prevention of any resurgence.

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US-EU agenda for beating the global pandemic: Vaccinating the world, saving lives now, and building back better health security

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Vaccination is the most effective response to the COVID pandemic. The United States and the EU are technological leaders in advanced vaccine platforms, given decades of investments in research and development.

It is vital that we aggressively pursue an agenda to vaccinate the world. Co-ordinated US and EU leadership will help expand supply, deliver in a more coordinated and efficient manner, and manage constraints to supply chains. This will showcase the force of a Transatlantic partnership in facilitating global vaccination while enabling more progress by multilateral and regional initiatives.

Building on the outcome of the May 2021 G20 Global Health Summit, the G7 and US-EU Summits in June, and on the upcoming G20 Summit, the US and the EU will expand cooperation for global action toward vaccinating the world, saving lives now, and building better health security.  

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Pillar I: A Joint EU/US Vaccine Sharing Commitment: the United States and the EU will share doses globally to enhance vaccination rates, with a priority on sharing through COVAX and improving vaccination rates urgently in low and lower-middle income countries. The United States is donating over 1.1 billion doses, and the EU will donate over 500 million doses. This is in addition to the doses we have financed through COVAX.

We call for nations that are able to vaccinate their populations to double their dose-sharing commitments or to make meaningful contributions to vaccine readiness. They will place a premium on predictable and effective dose-sharing to maximize sustainability and minimize waste.

Pillar II: A Joint EU/US Commitment to Vaccine Readiness: the United States and the EU will both support and coordinate with relevant organisations for vaccine delivery, cold chain, logistics, and immunization programs to translate doses in vials into shots in arms. They will share lessons learned from dose sharing, including delivery via COVAX, and promote equitable distribution of vaccines.

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Pillar III: A Joint EU/US partnership on bolstering global vaccine supply and therapeutics: the EU and the United States will leverage their newly launched Joint COVID-19 Manufacturing and Supply Chain Taskforce to support vaccine and therapeutic manufacturing and distribution and overcome supply chain challenges. Collaborative efforts, outlined below, will include monitoring global supply chains, assessing global demand against the supply of ingredients and production materials, and identifying and addressing in real time bottlenecks and other disruptive factors for global vaccine and therapeutics production, as well as coordinating potential solutions and initiatives to boost global production of vaccines, critical inputs, and ancillary supplies.

Pillar IV: A Joint EU/US Proposal to achieve Global Health Security. The United States and the EU will support the establishment of a Financial Intermediary Fund (FIF) by the end of 2021 and will support its sustainable capitalization.  The EU and United States will also support global pandemic surveillance, including the concept of a global pandemic radar. The EU and the United States, through HERA and the Department of Health and Human Services Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, respectively, will cooperate in line with our G7 commitment to expedite the development of new vaccines and make recommendations on enhancing the world's capacity to deliver these vaccines in real time. 

We call on partners to join in establishing and financing the FIF to support to prepare countries for COVID-19 and future biological threats.

Pillar V: A Joint EU/US/Partners Roadmap for regional vaccine production. The EU and the United States will coordinate investments in regional manufacturing capacity with low and lower-middle income countries, as well as targeted efforts to enhance capacity for medical countermeasures under the Build Back and Better World infrastructure and the newly established Global Gateway partnership. The EU and the United States will align efforts to bolster local vaccine manufacturing capacity in Africa and forge ahead on discussions on expanding the production of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments and ensure their equitable access.

We call on partners to join in supporting coordinated investments to expand global and regional manufacturing, including for mRNA, viral vector, and/or protein subunit COVID-19 vaccines.

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Joint statement on the launch of the joint COVID-19 Manufacturing and Supply Chain Taskforce

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Coronavirus: 200th EU disinfection robot delivered to European hospital, a further 100 confirmed

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On 21 September, the Commission delivered the 200th disinfection robot – to Consorci Corporació Sanitària Parc Taulí hospital in Barcelona. The robots, donated by the Commission, help sanitize COVID-19 patient rooms and are part of the Commission's action to supply hospitals across the EU to help them cope with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Further to these initial 200 robots announced in November last year, the Commission secured the purchase an additional 100, bringing the total donations to 300.

A Europe fit for the Digital Age Executive Vice President for Margrethe Vestager, said: “Assisting member states overcome the challenges of the pandemic continues to be a number one priority and these donations – a very tangible form of support – are a prime example of what can be achieved. This is European solidarity in action and I am pleased to see the Commission can go the extra mile in donating an additional 100 disinfection robots to hospitals in need.”

Twenty-five disinfection robots have already been working night and day across Spain since February to help tackle the spread of the coronavirus. Nearly every EU Member State has now received at least one disinfection robot, which disinfects a standard patient room in under 15 minutes, alleviating hospital staff and offering them and their patients greater protection against potential infection. This action is made possible through the Emergency Support Instrument and the devices are supplied by Danish company UVD robots, which won an emergency procurement tender.

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