World News in Brief: August 17

China's vaccine specialist CanSino Biologics Inc has won a patent approval from Beijing for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate Ad5-nCOV, state media reported, citing documents from the country's intellectual property regulator. It is the first COVID-19 vaccine patent granted by China, state-owned newspaper People's Daily reported on Sunday (August 16). The paper cited documents published by China's National Intellectual Property Administration saying that the patent was issued on Aug. 11.

A staff member displays samples of the COVID-19 inactivated vaccine at Sinovac Biotech Ltd., in Beijing, capital of China, March 16, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)
A staff member displays samples of the COVID-19 inactivated vaccine at Sinovac Biotech Ltd., in Beijing, capital of China, March 16, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)

* Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador expects to be able to put a COVID-19 vaccine into use in the country during the first quarter next year, he said in a video on Twitter on Sunday. His government has struck a partnership with Argentina and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca Plc to produce a vaccine for distribution throughout Latin America.

* Britain on Monday (August 17) urged elderly people and volunteers from Black and Asian minority groups to sign up to a COVID-19 vaccine trial registry to boost efforts to find a working vaccine against the disease that offers protection against higher risk groups. No COVID-19 vaccine candidate has yet been proven effective against the disease, but around 20 are in clinical trials. Over 100,000 people have volunteered to take part in vaccine trials, Britain's business ministry said, but more volunteers are needed to make sure candidate shots work for everyone.

* Thailand's economy saw its biggest annual contraction in 22 years and a record quarterly fall in the April-June period, as the coronavirus pandemic and restriction measures hit tourism, exports and domestic activity, prompting an outlook downgrade. The National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC) cut its gross domestic product forecast for 2020. It now expects Thailand's economy to shrink by 7.3%-7.8% this year, having previously forecast a 5%-6% contraction.

* China reported no new local coronavirus cases in the western region of Xinjiang on Aug. 16, according to national data, marking the first time the area's case count was zero since mid-July. It marks a new low number for Xinjiang, which had become a hotbed for the virus as cases surged. China reported on Monday 22 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for Aug. 16, compared with 19 cases a day earlier, the health authority said. All of the new infections were imported cases, the National Health Commission said in a statement. There were no new deaths.

* Brazil on Sunday registered 620 new deaths and 23,101 new cases of coronavirus, the health ministry said. In total, Brazil now has 3,340,197 confirmed cases and 107,852 deaths due to COVID-19.

* India's death toll from the coronavirus surpassed 50,000 on Monday, as infection numbers surged and total cases were nearly at 2.65 million. The country reported a daily jump of 57,981 infections, taking the total to nearly 2.65 million, third only behind the United States and Brazil. The death toll jumped by 941, with the total now 50,921.

* Russia reported 4,892 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, pushing its tally so far to 927,745, the fourth largest in the world. Authorities said 55 people had died across the country in the last 24 hours, increasing Russia's official coronavirus death toll to 15,740.

* Mexico's health ministry reported on Sunday 4,448 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections and 214 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 522,162 cases and 56,757 deaths. The government has said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

* Australia's second-most populous state of Victoria on Monday reported the deadliest day of the pandemic with 25 fatalities from the coronavirus in the last 24 hours and 282 new cases. The state recorded 16 deaths and 279 new cases a day earlier. It reported its previous one-day high of 21 deaths last week.

* Republic of Korea (ROK) warned on Monday of a looming novel coronavirus crisis as new outbreaks flared, including one linked to a church where more than 300 members of the congregation have been infected but hundreds more are reluctant to get tested. The ROK has been one of the world's coronavirus mitigation success stories but it has nevertheless battled persistent spikes in infections. The latest cases brought its total infections to 15,515 including 305 deaths.

* France's health ministry on Sunday reported 3,015 new coronavirus infections over the last 24 hours, the second day in a row in which new cases have surpassed the 3,000 mark. However, the daily count was below the 3,310 cases reported on Saturday that marked a post-lockdown high, the ministry's data showed.

* The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 561 to 224,014, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Monday. The reported death toll rose by one to 9,232, the tally showed.

* Italy is to shut discos and clubs and make it compulsory to wear a mask outdoors in some areas during the night-time in the first reimposition of restrictions as cases of coronavirus pick up across the country, especially among younger people. New cases in the past week in Italy, the first European country to be hit hard by the coronavirus, were more than double those registered three weeks ago and the median age of people contracting the virus has dropped below 40, data showed. Since its outbreak came to light on Feb. 21, Italy has recorded more than 35,000 deaths.

* The United Arab Emirates' agreement to normalise ties with Israel was a "sovereign decision" that was not directed at Iran, UAE minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said on Monday. The UAE on Sunday said it had summoned Iran's charge d'affaires in Abu Dhabi and given him a "strongly worded memo" in response to a speech by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that the foreign ministry described as "unacceptable".

* Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke on the phone on Sunday about Russia's proposal to hold a video summit at the United Nations to discuss Iran, the Russian foreign ministry said. Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed a video summit with the United States and the remaining parties to a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powera - Britain, France, China, Germany and Iran - to try to avoid further "confrontation and escalation" over Iran at the United Nations.

* The resumption of peace negotiations remain a priority to reach a just solution in the Middle East, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Twitter on Sunday. Macron said he had spoken with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority. "I told him of my determination to work for peace in the Middle East," Macron said.

* Crowds gathered in Prague and Warsaw on Sunday to show their support for protesters in Belarus who are demanding President Alexander Lukashenko step down after what they say was his fraudulent re-election a week ago. Lukashenko, who has led Belarus for 26 years, denies electoral fraud.

* US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu said they discussed on Sunday a standoff over disputed territory in the eastern Mediterranean, where Ankara is at loggerheads with Athens and the European Union. After the meeting in Santo Domingo, Pompeo said on Twitter they discussed "the urgent need to reduce tensions". Separately Cavusoglu, in a briefing afterwards, said he explained the "rightful cause" pursued by Turkey in the region.

* Bolivia surpassed 100,000 coronavirus cases on Sunday, the country's Ministry of Health reported, predicting that the virus would reach its peak there in September. Bolivia's confirmed coronavirus infections reached 100,344, the ministry said, and there have been 4,058 deaths since the virus first emerged in the country in early March. The Electoral Court decided in July to postpone the vote until Oct. 18 due to the spread of the coronavirus.

* Poland is monitoring the situation on its border with Belarus, as the Belarusian army plans to hold drills this week in the Grodno region bordering Poland and Lithuania, Deputy Defence Minister Wojciech Skurkiewicz said on Monday.

* At least 16 people were killed in an attack on Sunday by the Islamist group al Shabaab on a seaside hotel in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, according to government spokesman Ismail Mukhtar Omar. Militants stormed the high-end Elite Hotel in Lido beach, detonated a car bomb and then opened fire with assault rifles, the latest attack by al Shabaab, which has been battling the country's central government since 2008.

Xinhua, Reuters