World News in Brief: January 14

Last year ranked as the sixth-warmest year on record, causing extreme weather events around the world and adding to evidence that the globe is in a long-term warming trend, according to an analysis released on Thursday by two US government agencies.

Omicron has become Germany's dominant coronavirus variant accounting for 73.3% of cases nationwide compared with 44.3% seven days ago, the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases wrote in its report.
Omicron has become Germany's dominant coronavirus variant accounting for 73.3% of cases nationwide compared with 44.3% seven days ago, the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases wrote in its report.

* Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala's new centre-right government won a confidence vote in parliament on Thursday, sealing its authority as it takes over amid a spike in coronavirus cases, rising inflation, a deep fiscal gap and challenges posed by Europe's green transition.

* Russia on Friday announced a snap combat readiness inspection of its troops in its far east and said they would practice deploying to far-away military sites in Russia for exercises.

* German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock will travel to Moscow next week for talks over the Ukraine crisis, she said on the sidelines of a meeting with her EU counterparts in Brest on Friday.

* The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea fired at least two ballistic missiles on Friday, the third test in two weeks, just hours after criticising a US push for new sanctions over the previous launches as a "provocation" and warning of a strong reaction.

* Sweden has decided to withdraw its troops this year from a European special forces mission to the Sahel region, its foreign minister said on Friday.

* China posted a record trade surplus in December and in 2021, as exports outperformed expectations during a global pandemic, but some analysts pointed to a slowdown in international shipments in the coming months.

* Britain's economy grew by a stronger-than-expected 0.9% in November, finally taking it above its size just before the country went into its first COVID-19 lockdown, the Office for National Statistics said on Friday.

* The global economy is projected to grow by 4% in 2022, down from 5.5% last year, and expand 3.5% in 2023 amid COVID-19 infections, labour market challenges, supply-chain constraints and inflation, according to a U.N. report.

* Euro zone companies survived the two years of the pandemic better than expected with fewer insolvencies than feared, euro zone finance ministers are likely to conclude on Monday according to a senior euro zone official.

* China on Friday suspended four more incoming US flights, bringing the total cancellation this year to 74, as COVID-19 cases caused by the highly contagious Omicron variant soared to record highs in the United States.

* Australia cancelled Novak Djokovic's visa for a second time on Friday saying the world tennis number one who has not been vaccinated for COVID-19 may pose a health risk, effectively ending his bid for a record 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.

* A booster shot of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine has shown 85% effectiveness in protecting against the Omicron variant for 1-2 months after it is received, the head of South Africa's Medical Research Council (SAMRC) said on Friday.

* China reported 201 new confirmed coronavirus cases for Jan. 13, up from 190 a day earlier, its health authority said on Friday.

* India reported 264,202 new cases of the coronavirus in the last 24 hours, taking its total tally to 36.58 million, the federal health ministry said on Friday.

* US President Joe Biden said he would send more military health workers to hospitals in six states and provide free masks and more free tests to help Americans tackle the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

* The Philippines' coronavirus task force will extend coronavirus curbs in the capital region and other provinces until the end of January, acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles said.

* Brazil reported 97,986 new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours and 174 COVID-19 deaths, the Health Ministry said.

* The Canadian province of Quebec is pressing ahead with a plan to levy a "health contribution" on adults refusing to get COVID-19 inoculations and will unveil details soon, premier Francois Legault said.

* The Republic of Korea will extend tougher social distancing rules for three more weeks amid concerns over a looming wave of the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant especially ahead of the Lunar New Year holidays, officials said on Friday.

* COVID-19 hospitalisation rates in Australia's New South Wales could plateau next week, a top health official said, as the state suffered record deaths from the virus for a third day.

* Unvaccinated Canadian truckers re-entering Canada from the United States must get tested for COVID-19 and quarantine themselves starting Jan. 15, the Canadian government said on Thursday, a day after the Canadian border agency dropped the rule.

* The Norwegian government will partly reverse a ban on serving alcohol in bars and restaurants, one of several policy changes as it seeks to relax COVID-19 restrictions, the prime minister said on Thursday.

* Saudi Arabia waived its requirement for visitors to be fully vaccinated to allow soccer players from Spain to compete in the Spanish Super Cup on Saudi soil, sources said.

* 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.

* Ukraine foreign ministry said on Friday that due to a massive cyber attack, the websites of the ministry and a number of other government agencies are temporarily down.

* Social media giant Facebook, now known as Meta Platforms, faces a 2.3 billion pound plus (3.2 billion plus USD) class action in Britain over allegations it abused its market dominance by exploiting the personal data of 44 million users.

* An explosion from a hand grenade hit the headquarters of Iraqi parliament speaker Mohammed Halbousi's Taqaddum party in Baghdad early on Friday wounding two guards, police sources said.