World News in Brief: August 20

Myanmar reported two more locally transmitted cases of COVID-19 on Thursday (August 20) morning, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 396, said a release from the Health and Sports Ministry. Myanmar reported its first two confirmed cases on March 23, and the death toll stands at six.

People wearing face masks cross a street in Jakarta, Indonesia, Aug. 19, 2020. The COVID-19 cases in Indonesia rose by 1,902 within one day to 144,945, with the death toll adding by 69 to 6,346, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday. (Photo: Xinhua)
People wearing face masks cross a street in Jakarta, Indonesia, Aug. 19, 2020. The COVID-19 cases in Indonesia rose by 1,902 within one day to 144,945, with the death toll adding by 69 to 6,346, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday. (Photo: Xinhua)

* Emergency rule against the COVID-19 pandemic in Thailand might be extended for another month, said the National Security Council (NSC) Secretary General Somsak Rungsita on Wednesday (August 19). The NSC chief told reporters that his agency will propose the extension of the emergency decree, enforced nationwide since last March, until Sept. 30 for the sake of the effectiveness in applying measures against the pandemic.

* No new locally-transmitted COVID-19 cases were reported Wednesday across the Chinese mainland, the National Health Commission said Thursday. A total of seven confirmed cases arriving from outside the mainland were reported Wednesday, the commission said in its daily report. No new suspected cases or deaths related to the disease were reported on the Chinese mainland, it added. As of Wednesday, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on the mainland had reached 84,895 and 4,634 had died of the disease on the mainland.

* US Federal Reserve officials believed that uncertainty surrounding the economic outlook remained "very elevated," with the path of the economy highly dependent on the course of the virus, according to the minutes of the Fed's latest policy meeting released Wednesday. The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States surpassed 5.5 million on Wednesday, with a death toll of over 172,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

* Brazil reported 49,298 new cases of the novel coronavirus and 1,212 deaths from the disease caused by the virus in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said on Wednesday. Brazil has now registered 3,456,652 cases of the virus since the pandemic began, while the official death toll from COVID-19 has risen to 111,100, according to ministry data, marking the world's worst coronavirus outbreak after the United States.

* India reported a record daily jump of 69,652 coronavirus infections on Thursday, taking the total number of cases to 2.84 million, data from the federal health ministry showed. It reported 977 new deaths, taking the total to 53,866. India is the worst-hit country in Asia and third only behind the United States and Brazil in terms of number of cases.

* Mexico's health ministry on Wednesday reported 5,792 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and 707 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 537,031 cases and 58,481 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 Thursday reported 13 COVID-19 deaths in the last 24 hours and 240 new coronavirus cases. The state reported 12 deaths and 216 cases a day earlier. A flare-up in infections in Victoria forced authorities two weeks ago to impose a nightly curfew and shut large parts of the state's economy. It has seen a slowdown in new cases in recent days, allaying fears of a nationwide second wave.

* The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 1,707 to 228,621, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Wednesday. The reported death toll rose by 10 to 9,253, the tally showed.

* New Zealand on Thursday reported five new confirmed cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours compared with six a day earlier, as the Pacific nation battles a fresh outbreak in its biggest city of Auckland. New Zealand so far has reported just over 1,300 confirmed cases and 22 deaths from the virus. There are 101 active cases in the country.

* Coronavirus cases in Colombia surpassed 500,000 on Wednesday as deaths from the virus approach 16,000 and the country nears the end of five months of lockdown. The Andean country has 502,178 confirmed cases of the virus according to the health ministry, with 15,979 reported deaths. Active cases number 158,893. President Ivan Duque declared an ongoing nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of the virus in late March.

* Republic of Korea reported 288 more cases of the COVID-19 as of 0:00 a.m. Thursday local time compared to 24 hours ago, raising the total number of infections to 16,346. The daily caseload soared in triple figures for seven straight days. The number of confirmed cases for the past seven days reached 1,576 due to infections in Seoul and its surrounding Gyeonggi province traceable to church services. One more death was confirmed, leaving the death toll at 307. The total fatality rate stood at 1.88 percent.

* Ukraine registered 2,134 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, a new daily record for infections in the country, Health Minister Maksym Stepanov said on Thursday. Stepanov said the new data surpassed the previous single-day record of 1,967 reported the previous day. The number of new cases increased sharply in August despite the country reimposing some restrictions recently. The total number of cases has reached 98,537, including 2,184 deaths.

* The British government is set to drop Croatia from its quarantine-free list on Thursday, giving thousands of Britons just 30 hours to return to the UK to avoid having to self-isolate for 14 days, The Telegraph reported.

* The African Union (AU) Commission on Wednesday suspended Mali from the pan-African bloc following the forced detention of senior officials, including the country's president and prime minister. The decision to suspend Mali from AU membership was made by the Peace and Security Council of the AU Commission during its latest meeting that dwelt upon the situation in the western Africa country.

* China has earmarked CNY460 million (about US$66.5 million) to support flood control and disaster relief in four provincial-level regions, the Ministry of Emergency Management (MEM) said on Wednesday. Designated for Sichuan, Shaanxi, Gansu, and Chongqing, the funds were allocated by the Ministry of Finance and the MEM for flood control, emergency rescue, and post-disaster reconstruction in regions hit hard by floods.

* Ireland braced for damage and flooding on Wednesday after the Irish Meteorological Service warned of "very severe and destructive winds" as Storm Ellen approached the country from the south-west. A rarely used status red wind warning is in place for the southern county of Cork from 9 p.m. until midnight on Wednesday, with an orange wind warning in place for the other counties in the south and west of the country. A red warning means there is the potential for widespread gusts of wind in excess of 130 km per hour (80 miles per hour).

* Sri Lanka's new parliament convened for its inaugural session on Thursday following a Parliamentary Election which saw the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) winning a landslide victory by securing 145 seats in the 225 member parliament.

* Inflation in the euro area continued to rise in July, climbing to 0.4 percent from 0.3 percent measured in June, but remained lower than the annual rate of 1 percent in July 2019, figures released by Eurostat on Wednesday showed. Meanwhile, annual inflation rate in the whole European Union (EU) stood at 0.9 percent in July, up from 0.8 percent a month ago. In June 2019, the rate stood at 1.4 percent, said the EU's statistical office.

* The unity of countries that has ratified the OPEC+ Declaration of Cooperation will make it possible to overcome the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Venezuelan Minister of Petroleum Tareck El Aissami said on Wednesday.

* The international community has called for peace and restraint in Belarus, as President Alexander Lukashenko urged western powers to focus on their own problems. Lukashenko said Wednesday that western leaders should focus on their own problems rather than the political situation in Belarus, state news agency BelTA reported.

* During the coronavirus pandemic, Ukraine has received humanitarian aid from 30 countries and nine international organizations, Ukrainian First Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzheppar said on her official Facebook page on Wednesday. Dzheppar also thanked the partners around the world who have helped and continue to help Ukraine counter COVID-19.

* The Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health published on Wednesday evening its updated strategy on COVID-19, increasing the country's capacity and efficiency in testing. Krista Kiuru, Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services, said at a government press conference that the daily testing capacity in the country will be raised from the current maximum of 14,000 to 20,000.

* Israel's Ministry of Health reported 18 new COVID-19 death cases on Wednesday, the highest daily death toll since the country's pandemic outbreak in late February. The previous daily death case record in Israel, 17, was recorded on August 12. The total number of COVID-19 cases in Israel reached 97,969, with 1,560 new cases. The number of recoveries rose to 73,092, with 1,102 new recoveries, while the number of active cases rose to 24,098.

* The Saudi foreign minister on Wednesday reaffirmed the country's commitment to the Arab Peace Initiative, in the first official comment regarding the normalization deal the United Arab Emirates signed with Israel. Israel's unilateral moves with regards to settlements are hindering the chances for peace, said Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud in an event in Berlin, Al Arabiya TV reported. The Arab Peace Initiative was proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2002, which stipulates that the Arabs can only normalize relations with Israel after the Palestinian issue is resolved.

* The blast-devastated Beirut port is temporarily operational, a UN spokesman said on Wednesday, adding that emergency relief and aid materials will continue to be delivered to victims. Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said almost 9,000 containers have been unloaded at the port between Aug. 11 and 18. More than 1,000 tons of goods, including iron and wheat, have been offloaded. Lebanon imports about 85 percent of its food.

* Federico Soda, chief of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Mission in Libya, on Wednesday said that around 45 illegal immigrants died in a shipwreck off the country's coast. According to IOM, more than 7,000 illegal immigrants have been rescued and returned to Libya so far in 2020.

* A large fire continued to burn out of control on Australia's east coast on Thursday, marking the first major blaze of the season with two weeks still left of winter in the southern hemisphere. Water-bombing aircraft were called in to support ground crews in northern New South Wales (NSW) State, with a large plume of smoke visible to motorists on a nearby highway.

Xinhua, Reuters