World News in Brief: August 19

Nations that hoard possible COVID-19 vaccines while excluding others will deepen the pandemic, World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday (August 18), issuing a last-ditch call for countries to join a global vaccine pact. The WHO has an Aug. 31 deadline for wealthier nations to join the "COVAX Global Vaccines Facility" for sharing vaccine hopefuls with developing countries. Tedros said he sent a letter to the WHO's 194 member states, urging participation.

UN says COVID-19 vaccine, treatment must be available for all.
UN says COVID-19 vaccine, treatment must be available for all.

* Brazil approved on Tuesday human clinical trials for a potential COVID-19 vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson, the fourth candidate to trial in the Latin American country that has become key to the global race for a vaccine. Health regulator Anvisa said it had given the green light to the study which will see 6,000 people in Brazil volunteer to trial the vaccine contender of Johnson & Johnson's pharmaceutical subsidiary Janssen. With the world's biggest coronavirus outbreak outside the United States, Brazil has become a hub for mass clinical trials of potential vaccines.

* The head of Germany's vaccines regulator said some groups of people living in Germany could be vaccinated early next year against the coronavirus that has killed almost 800,000 worldwide and wreaked havoc on the global economy. More than half a dozen drugmakers around the world are conducting advanced clinical trials, each with tens of thousands of participants, and several expect to know if their COVID-19 vaccines work and are safe by the end of this year.

* Pakistan's drug regulator greenlit the country's first Phase 3 clinical trial for a potential COVID-19 vaccine, which is being developed by China's CanSino Biologics (CanSino) and Beijing Institute of Biotechnology. The trial is slated to begin next month, according to an official who will coordinate the exercise. Government-run National Institute of Health (NIH) will be leading the trial for the candidate Ad5-nCoV along with pharmaceutical company AJM - the local representative of CanSino.

* Floods on the upper reaches of China's Yangtze river forced authorities to evacuate more than 100,000 people on Tuesday and threatened a 1,200-year-old world heritage site. Staff, police and volunteers used sandbags to try to protect the 71-metre (233-foot) Leshan Giant Buddha, a UNESCO World Heritage site in southwestern Sichuan province, as muddy flood water rose over its toes for the first time since 1949, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

* China and the United States will each allow air carriers to double current flights to eight per week between the world's two largest economies, the US Transportation Department said on Tuesday. The department said it will allow four Chinese passenger airlines currently flying to the United States to double flights to eight weekly round-trips, as China has agreed to allow US carriers to double flights to China. US carriers voluntary halted flights to China after the coronavirus outbreak. President Donald Trump on Jan. 31 barred nearly all non-US citizens from traveling to the United States from China.

* Belarusian Foreign Minster Vladimir Makei and Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya discussed the crisis in Belarus by telephone on Wednesday (August 19) and agreed no outside power should try to interfere, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry said. The phone call came ahead of an emergency European Union video conference set to discuss the situation.

* No new high-level trade talks have been scheduled between the United States and China but the two sides remain in touch about implementing a Phase 1 deal, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told reporters aboard Air Force One on Tuesday.

* The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday said the number of deaths due to the new coronavirus had risen by 520 to 169,870 and reported 5,422,242 cases, an increase of 40,117 cases from its previous count.

* Brazil reported 47,784 new cases of the novel coronavirus and 1,352 deaths from the disease caused by the virus in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said on Tuesday. Brazil has now registered 3,407,354 cases of the virus since the pandemic began, while the official death toll from COVID-19 has risen to 109,888, according to ministry data, marking the world's worst coronavirus outbreak after the United States.

* Russia reported 4,828 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday (August 19), pushing its nationwide tally to 937,321, the fourth largest in the world. Russia's coronavirus taskforce said 117 people had died over the last 24 hours, bringing its official death toll to 15,989.

* Mexico's health ministry reported on Tuesday 5,506 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections and 751 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 531,239 cases and 57,774 deaths. The government has said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

* Britain is planning to bring in population-wide mass testing for coronavirus to help control the pandemic, said health minister Matt Hancock on Wednesday.

* A fresh outbreak of infections in Australia's coronavirus hot zone of Victoria eased further on Wednesday, while the country agreed a deal to secure a potential COVID-19 vaccine that it plans to roll out cost-free to citizens. Australia has signed a deal with British drugmaker AstraZeneca to produce and distribute enough doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine for its population of 25 million, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said late on Tuesday. All Australians will be offered doses but a medical panel will determine the priority list of vaccine recipients.

* The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 1,510 to 226,914, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Wednesday. The reported death toll rose by seven to 9,243, the tally showed.

* US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Tuesday that Democrats in Congress are willing to cut their coronavirus relief bill in half to get an agreement on new legislation, which a senior aide said did not signal a change to her position. Pelosi also said she did not want to wait to reach a deal at the end of September, when Congress will need to agree on funding to keep the government open during the next federal fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

* The Canadian province of Quebec on Tuesday announced plans to tackle earlier mistakes in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, while preparing its health sector against a possible second wave of coronavirus in the autumn. Quebec, once the country’s hardest-hit province for COVID-19, will boost public health sector hiring, reduce screening delays, and ensure staff like orderlies can no longer work at multiple long-term care facilities, a practice previously blamed for spreading the virus, Health Minister Christian Dubé told reporters.

* Argentina confirmed 6,840 new cases of coronavirus and 172 new deaths on Tuesday, taking it simultaneously over the 300,000 case and 6,000 death threshold as the Latin nation battles a surge of contagions in recent weeks. The country's health ministry reported a total of 305,966 cases and 6,048 deaths.

* Ukraine registered 1,967 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, officials said on Wednesday, a new daily record for infections in the country. The data given by the national council of security and defence surpassed the previous single-day record of 1,847, reported last week. Total cases are at 96,403, with 2,144 deaths. Infections have risen sharply in August prompting authorities to reimpose some restrictions.

* Finland said on Wednesday it will bring back travel restrictions for several countries which it had for months considered safe destinations, including Germany and its Nordic neighbours, to stop the spread of COVID-19. Travelling from Iceland, Greece, Malta, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Ireland, Cyprus, San Marino and Japan to Finland will be limited to essential trips starting August 24, with people returning from those countries required to self-quarantine for two weeks, Minister of Interior Maria Ohisalo said. Prior to Wednesday's announcement, Finland had already restricted travelling to and from most other countries around the globe.

* Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita resigned on Tuesday and dissolved parliament hours after mutinying soldiers detained him at gunpoint, plunging a country already facing a jihadist insurgency and mass protests deeper into crisis. It was not immediately clear who was leading the revolt, who would govern in Keita's absence or what the mutineers wanted.