World News in Brief: January 13

Dialogue between the government and the main rebel group fighting an insurgency in Thailand's Muslim deep south have resumed, participants said on Thursday, with both sides expressing hope for peace after a two-year break in talks.

Hungary, which expects a substantial further increase in infections over the coming weeks, is to make a fourth shot available to people who ask for it, Prime Minister Viktor Orban's chief of staff said.
Hungary, which expects a substantial further increase in infections over the coming weeks, is to make a fourth shot available to people who ask for it, Prime Minister Viktor Orban's chief of staff said.

* China said on Thursday that it hopes the United States can create conditions to expand trade cooperation, after Chinese purchases of US goods in the past two years fell short of the targets in a Trump-era trade deal.

* Britain and India formally launched free trade agreement talks in New Delhi on Thursday with the aim of wrapping up a deal by the end of the year that could boost annual bilateral trade by billions of pounds.

* Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday the chances of talks with NATO and Washington continuing depended on the West's reaction to Moscow's proposals and that it expected a response next week, the RIA and Interfax news agencies said.

* Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday urged Russia to continue dialogue in established negotiating formats to prove it did not want to solve problems by force.

* A Russia-led military bloc began to pull its troops out of Kazakhstan on Thursday after a week-long deployment which helped the Central Asian nation overcome the worst bout of violent unrest in its post-Soviet history.

* President Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday told ambassadors from the European Union that the bloc had not provided meaningful support in battling migration and that it had not reciprocated Turkey's efforts to improve relations.

* New Czech Environment Minister Anna Hubackova said on Thursday she was ready to hold talks with Poland next week to overcome a dispute over Poland's open-pit coal mine Turow near the two countries' border.

* Europe has received assurances from the United States that nothing will be agreed with Russia without the bloc's involvement, the European Union's foreign policy chief said on Thursday.

* Tianjin in northern China reported 41 domestically transmitted cases, while the northeastern city of Dalian reported that an individual arriving from Tianjin had also contracted the Omicron variant.

* New infections in Indian cities could peak next week after rising rapidly, experts said, as the country reported the highest number of daily cases since late May and Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India had adequate stocks of vaccines across states.

* Tokyo recorded a new four-month high in infections, and experts forecast the spread of the Omicron variant would cause the daily count to triple by month's end.

* Spain will cap prices for rapid tests and open up its booster shot programme to everyone over the age of 18.

* Mexico on Wednesday posted a record 44,187 new confirmed cases, bringing its total number of infections to 4,214,253.

* France announced it was slightly easing COVID-19 protocols for vaccinated travellers from Britain, dropping a requirement for proof of an essential reason for the trip and for obligatory self-isolation upon arrival.

* US President Joe Biden is directing the US government to procure an additional 500 million COVID-19 tests to help meet surging demand across the country amid the spread of the Omicron variant, a White House official told Reuters on Thursday.

* Canada will allow unvaccinated Canadian truckers to cross in from the United States, reversing a decision requiring all truckers to be inoculated against the coronavirus, Canada's border agency said on Wednesday.

* Germany's STIKO vaccine committee recommended on Thursday that all children between the ages of 12 and 17 receive a COVID-19 booster shot even though the European Union's drugs regulator has not given approval for this age group.

* Senegal has authorized COVID-19 vaccines for children over 12 and booster shots for adults, the health ministry said on Thursday, as vaccine hesitancy complicates its fight against rising infections from the Omicron variant.

* Africa's top public health body said it was in talks with Pfizer about securing supplies of its antiviral COVID-19 pills for the continent.

* Jittery global financial markets saw signs of stabilisation, with major equity bourses and bond yields holding their ground and the dollar wilting after the highest US inflation reading in nearly 40 years.

* Polish scientists have found a gene that they say more than doubles the risk of becoming severely ill with COVID-19, a discovery they hope could help doctors identify people who are most at risk from the disease.

* The global life insurance industry was hit with reported claims due to COVID-19 of 5.5 billion USD in the first nine months of 2021 versus 3.5 billion USD for the whole of 2020, according to insurance broker Howden.

* A "shocking" surge in cases across the World Health Organization's Eastern Mediterranean region is probably due to the Omicron variant, a WHO official said, warning that some countries in the group still have very low vaccination rates.

* AstraZeneca said preliminary data from a trial showed its COVID-19 shot, Vaxzevria, generated an increase in antibodies against the Omicron and other variants when given as a third booster dose.

* The Afghan Taliban on Wednesday proposed creating a joint body of its officials and international representatives to help coordinate billions of dollars in planned aid.

* There is a 67% chance of La Nina conditions continuing during the Northern Hemisphere spring, a US government weather forecaster said on Thursday.