Even in times of the Corona pandemic, NATO's readiness to protect and to deter does not falter. Last week, five NATO jets from three Black Sea alliance members - Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey - were scrambled to respond to foreign aircraft that approached the three countries' shared airspace. "They do this on a regular basis," Bulgarian Defence Minister Krasimir Karakachanov said. "They are testing our capability and want to see how we are going to react, how quickly our planes get airborne, and whether our radars will detect them." NATO officials said that throughout the last year, their jets intercepted foreign aircraft approaching NATO airspace nearly 300 times.
NATO's engagement in supporting members and partner nations in the fight against COVID-19 continue. Romania, Lithuania, Slovakia and NATO's partner Austria are the latest countries to assist the Republic of Moldova in order to deal with the consequences of the pandemic. Their support follows a Moldovan request for assistance through NATO's Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC). For example, a medical team including 41 doctors and nurses from the Romanian Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of National Defence was deployed to Moldova from 30 April to 16 May. The Slovak Ministry of Foreign Affairs granted a financial donation of 50.000 EUR for the purchase of medical protection equipment for five municipal hospitals of the capital city, Chisinau. On 12 May, Austria delivered medical items and blankets to the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Moldova. And on 14 May, the Lithuanian Air Force delivered protective face shields manufactured by Lithuanian digital printing companies to both the Moldovan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Protection.
Neighbouring Belgium will not return to the strict measures imposed for nearly two months to combat the coronavirus outbreak, even if there is a second wave of COVID-19 cases, interior minister Pieter De Crem told media on Sunday. The country effectively closed down in mid-March, with only shops selling food and pharmacies operating. "The first lockdown has taken care of the situation in which we have ended up. These were exceptional circumstances. If there was a second wave, then I think we will find ourselves in a different situation, namely with testing and tracing. But I think we can rule out that we will have to go back to the tough measures," De Crem said. Belgium, home to both NATO's political and strategic operational headquarters, has been among the worst affected countries in Europe with over 57.000 COVID-19 cases and 9,280 deaths. On 03 June, the Belgium government will discuss a further easing of restrictions, which could extend to restaurants and leisure activities.