World News in Brief: February 19

The World Health Organization urged nations producing vaccines not to distribute them unilaterally but to donate them to the global COVAX scheme to ensure fairness.

A woman receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine during a mass vaccination for traders at Tanah Abang textile market in Jakarta, Indonesia, Feb. 19, 2021. Indonesia on Wednesday began the second phase of its massive COVID-19 vaccination program. (Photo: Xinhua)
A woman receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine during a mass vaccination for traders at Tanah Abang textile market in Jakarta, Indonesia, Feb. 19, 2021. Indonesia on Wednesday began the second phase of its massive COVID-19 vaccination program. (Photo: Xinhua)

* UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday asked for global action to stop "a senseless and suicidal war on nature" and address climate disruption, biodiversity loss and pollution.

* Senior diplomats of the Republic of Korea (ROK), the United States and Japan have held virtual talks over the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula, the ROK Foreign Ministry said Friday.

* Asian stocks pulled back from all-time peaks as higher longer-dated bond yields and underwhelming US data dented investor confidence in a faster economic recovery from the pandemic.

* Russian president's special envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov arrived in Pakistan on Friday on a day-long visit for talks on the Afghan peace process, the Foreign Ministry of Pakistan said.

* NASA's Perseverance rover touched down safely on Mars on Thursday, kicking off the agency's ninth mission on the Red Planet.

* Iran will "immediately reverse" actions in respect of its nuclear programme when US sanctions are lifted, its foreign minister said on Friday, reiterating Tehran's position on Washington's offer to revive talks.

* US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his counterparts from Britain, Germany, and France (E3) discussed the Iran nuclear issue on Thursday, calling on Tehran not to limit the verification of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

* Thailand on Friday reported 130 new COVID-19 infections and one more death, according to the Center for the COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA). Thailand has so far confirmed 25,241 cases of infection, 22,562 of which were reported as domestic while 2,679 others referred to those who had returned from abroad.

* The Department of Health (DOH) of the Philippines reported on Friday 1,901 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the Southeast Asian country's total tally to 557,058. The death toll rose to 11,829 after 157 more patients died from the coronavirus epidemic.

* Japan confirmed a new variant of COVID-19, and an infection cluster emerged at a Tokyo immigration facility.

* The African Union's vaccine procurement scheme said on Friday that Russia had been offered 300 million doses of its Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine and that the offer included a financing package for member states wanting to secure the shot.

* Republic of Korea's prime minister assured there were no safety issues with AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine on Friday, as the government held final drills ahead of next week's scheduled rollout of the first vaccines.

* Russia on Friday reported 13,433 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, including 1,972 in Moscow, taking the national tally to 4,139,031. Authorities also reported another 470 deaths, raising the official toll to 82,396.

* Falling coronavirus infections and a steady rise in vaccinations mean lifting lockdown measures in Germany is possible, Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Friday, urging caution given that a more infectious variant had been identified.

* New Zealand officials injected a small group of medical professionals with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, in preparation for a wider rollout over the weekend.

* Venezuela started vaccinating health workers with the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, adding it hopes to inoculate 70% of the country's population by year-end.

* A top Pfizer scientist said the company is in intensive discussions with regulators to test a booster shot version of its coronavirus vaccine specifically targeted for a highly contagious variant that is spreading widely in South Africa and elsewhere.

* The African Union is setting up a fund to finance the construction of much-needed roads, railways and power plants on the continent, its infrastructure head said, turning to new sources of cash due to donor fatigue and higher debt levels.

* Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday that the country's health care system will withstand pressure from a rising third COVID-19 wave and ramp up inoculations with new vaccine shipments.

* Scientists will meet to advise South Africa on its next steps after a study suggested the dominant local coronavirus variant may reduce protective antibodies from Pfizer's vaccine by two-thirds.

* An Israeli bar doubled as a vaccination clinic, with free drinks given to those who got the shots.

* Ireland will remain under significant restrictions until the end of April, the prime minister was quoted as saying.

* Nigeria exited recession in the fourth quarter despite a full-year contraction in 2020, reflecting the easing of induced restrictions.

Xinhua, Reuters