World News in Brief: August 14

Indonesia must use the pandemic to reboot Southeast Asia's biggest economy, including by improving food and energy security, as well as processing more natural resources at home, President Joko Widodo said on Friday (August 14). Widodo made the remarks in his annual state of the union speech to parliament.

A volunteer shows a number card before participating in a vaccine clinical trial at Garuda clinic in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia, Aug. 14, 2020. Indonesian President Joko Widodo has expressed his hope that the third phase of the clinical test on anti-coronavirus vaccine would be completed within six months. (Photo: Xinhua)
A volunteer shows a number card before participating in a vaccine clinical trial at Garuda clinic in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia, Aug. 14, 2020. Indonesian President Joko Widodo has expressed his hope that the third phase of the clinical test on anti-coronavirus vaccine would be completed within six months. (Photo: Xinhua)

* The UK government has sealed two more deals to secure COVID-19 vaccines, buying shots in development from US drugmakers Johnson & Johnson and Novavax Inc, the chair of the UK Vaccine Taskforce Katie Bingham told Sky News on Friday. In a separate statement, Novavax said the UK would buy 60 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine candidate, NVX-CoV2373, for a phase 3 clinical trial in the country.

* Chinese health authority said Friday that it received reports of 30 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on the Chinese mainland Thursday, including 22 imported cases and eight locally transmitted ones. As of Thursday, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on the mainland had reached 84,786, including 690 patients who were still being treated, with 39 in severe conditions. Altogether 79,462 people had been discharged after recovery, and 4,634 had died of the disease on the mainland.

* Brazil registered 1,262 deaths from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in 24 hours, raising the death toll to 105,463 since the virus was first detected in the country, the Ministry of Health announced on Thursday (August 13). The agency added that 60,091 new cases were reported, bringing the total number of infections to 3,224,876. Brazil is second in the world only to the United States in numbers of both cases and deaths.

* Peru surpassed half a million coronavirus cases and has the highest fatality rate in Latin America, according to health ministry data on Thursday, as the government struggles to contain a recent surge of infections. There have been 507,996 confirmed cases and 25,648 related deaths, vice health minister Luis Suarez said at a news conference. The Andean country has the highest coronavirus death rate in Latin America at 78.6 per 100,000 people, a Reuters tally shows, surpassing hard-hit regional neighbors Chile and Brazil.

* Russia reported 5,065 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Friday, bringing its nationwide tally to 912,823, the fourth highest caseload in the world. Russia's coronavirus crisis response centre said 114 people had died over the last 24 hours, pushing its official death toll to 15,498.

* Laos has detected two more confirmed COVID-19 cases, with its total number rising to 22. Lao Deputy Minister of Health Phouthone Meaungpak told a press conference in Lao capital Vientiane on Friday that the two new cases were both Lao nationals who returned to the country from abroad on Aug. 12. Laos announced its first two COVID-19 confirmed cases on March 24.

* The Malaysian economy contracted 17.1 percent year on year in the second quarter, the worst slump since the fourth quarter of 1998, official data showed Friday. Malaysian Central Bank, Bank Negara, said in a statement that the decline reflected the unprecedented impact of the stringent containment measures to control the COVID-19 pandemic globally and domestically. The central bank has revised its official gross domestic product (GDP) growth forecast for 2020 to between -3.5 percent and -5.5 percent, from previously projected growth of between -2 percent and 0.5 percent.

* The Philippines' health ministry on Friday reported 6,216 more novel coronavirus infections, the third-largest daily increase recorded in Southeast Asia up to now, and 16 additional deaths. In a bulletin, the ministry said the total number of confirmed cases had increased to 153,660, while confirmed deaths had reached 2,442. The Philippines on Monday reported its highest daily rise in confirmed infections at 6,958.

* New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern extended a lockdown in the country's biggest city on Friday in response to the first national coronavirus outbreak in months, sticking with a "go early, go hard" approach she said has proven effective. Her swift action followed the discovery on Tuesday of the country's first COVID-19 infections in 102 days, in a family in Auckland. Since then, officials have identified a total of 29 cases, all linked to the same cluster.

* The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 1,449 to 221,413, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Friday. The reported death toll rose by 14 to 9,225, the tally showed.

* The Tokyo metropolitan government on Friday reported 389 new daily COVID-19 cases marking the first time since Sunday new infections have topped the 300-mark. The latest figure compares with 206 cases confirmed on Thursday and is the highest since 429 infections were reported in the capital on Saturday. Tokyo, the epicenter of the outbreak in Japan, has now seen its cumulative total of infections rise to 17,069, the highest among the country's 47 prefectures. Nationwide, total cases have surpassed 52,000.

* Republic of Korea on Friday reported 103 new coronavirus cases, of which 85 were domestic, the most locally transmitted cases since the end of March, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said. The new cases bring the country's tally to 14,873 infections, with 305 deaths, as of Thursday midnight.

* An all-cargo air route linking Hangzhou, capital of east China's Zhejiang Province, and Spain's Madrid was launched Thursday. The route, operated three times a week by Air China Cargo, is expected to more than half the shipping time of foreign trade commodities to about 10 days. Statistics show that China currently is Spain's largest trading partner outside the European Union (EU), while Spain is China's sixth largest trading partner within the EU bloc.

* Malaysia has decided to lift an earlier limit on the hiring of foreign workers meant to protect jobs for locals in most sectors, the Human Resources Ministry said late on Thursday. Malaysia hosts about 2.1 million documented foreign workers, according to government estimates.

* Singapore and Japan made some progress in the resumption of essential business travel during the official visit of Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi to Singapore from Aug. 12 to 14.

* Republic of Korea (ROK) Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance Hong Nam-ki said Friday that his government expected the economy would rebound in the third quarter based on recent positive signs of economic recovery.

* People arriving in Britain from France, the Netherlands, Monaco, and Malta after 04:00 BST (0300 GMT) on Saturday will have to self-isolate for 14 days in an effort to check the spread of coronavirus, British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced Thursday. The decision to add France to Britain's quarantine list will cause dismay for thousands of British holidaymakers currently in the country.

* The new Sri Lankan government is aiming to boost exports this year as at least four state ministers have been appointed to develop key local products such as gems, batiks, coconut, rubber, vegetables and tea, local media reports said on Friday. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Sri Lanka's merchandise exports last month crossed the US$1billion mark, local media quoting official statistics said.

* The Afghan government has begun releasing the last Taliban prisoners from a final batch of 400 who the militants want freed before they agree to start peace negotiations, a security agency spokesman said on Friday. The government agreed on Sunday to release the 400 "hard-core" prisoners after consulting a grand assembly of elders and other community leaders, known as a Loya Jirga.