World News in Brief: January 15

The Philippines has finalised a deal to acquire a shore-based anti-ship missile system from India for nearly 375 million USD to beef up its navy, the Southeast Asian nation's defence minister said.

Bhutan has reported its first 14 cases of Omicron variant, a health official said, amid a surge of the pandemic in the Himalayan kingdom that has so far been relatively successful at keeping the disease at bay.
Bhutan has reported its first 14 cases of Omicron variant, a health official said, amid a surge of the pandemic in the Himalayan kingdom that has so far been relatively successful at keeping the disease at bay.

* China reaffirmed its opposition to unilateral sanctions by the United States against Iran at a meeting between Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Iranian counterpart, while backing efforts to revive a 2015 nuclear deal between major powers and Iran.

* Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov on Friday dismissed Western media reports that said Moscow was preparing a provocation in eastern Ukraine as based on "unfounded" information, TASS news agency reported.

* Italian centre-right parties confirmed on Friday they wanted Silvio Berlusconi to be the next president of Italy and said in a joint statement that they would seek wide support for him in parliament.

* Secretary of State Antony Blinken reaffirmed the US commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea in a call with the country's foreign minister on Friday, the State Department said, following three missile launches by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea this year.

* An underwater volcano off Tonga erupted on Saturday, triggering a tsunami warning for several South Pacific island nations, with footage on social media showing waves crashing into homes.

* Three judges at the Federal Court of Australia will hear Novak Djokovic's challenge against the government's cancellation of his visa at a hearing on Sunday that could deliver the final on a saga that has gripped the country and the sporting world.

* China reported 165 new confirmed coronavirus cases for Jan. 14, down from 201 a day earlier, its health authority said on Saturday. Of the new infections, 104 were locally transmitted, according to a statement by the National Health Commission, compared with 143 a day earlier.

* High demand for groceries combined with soaring freight costs and Omicron-related labor shortages are creating a new round of backlogs at processed food and fresh produce companies, leading to empty supermarket shelves at major retailers across the United States.

* India reported 268,833 new cases of the coronavirus in the last 24 hours, taking its total tally to 36.84 million, the federal health ministry said on Saturday. Deaths from COVID-19 rose by 402 to 485,752, the ministry said.

* A surge in coronavirus cases caused by the Omicron variant may have peaked in some parts of Europe but medics say the impact will continue to be felt across the region, with hospitals still at risk of facing a rush of admissions.

* The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units in France has fallen for the second day in a row, despite a record infection rate, health ministry data showed on Friday.

* Australia has likely neared the peak of its Omicron wave, authorities said on Saturday, but warned daily infections will linger near record levels for "the next few weeks" after more than 100,000 cases were reported for a fourth straight day.

* Canada will see a surge in cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in coming weeks which could put significant new strains on the healthcare system, chief public health officer Theresa Tam said on Friday.

* The Czech government will allow asymptomatic essential healthcare workers and social service personnel who test positive for coronavirus to keep working, the health ministry said on Friday.

* The number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Spain since the pandemic started in 2020 has reached 8 million, according to Health Ministry data on Friday.

* The UK Health Security Agency on Friday said it was increasingly confident that the Omicron coronavirus variant was less severe for adults, as it published its updated briefing on the variant.

* Brazil is suffering a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases as the Omicron variant spreads through the country, putting pressure on health services and weighing on an already sputtering economy.

* Mexican health regulator COFEPRIS said on Friday it had approved US pharmaceutical company Pfizer's antiviral oral treatment against COVID-19 for emergency use in adults with light or moderate risk of complications.

* Uruguay has opened its borders to citizens and residents even if they are infected with COVID-19, a rare move amid surging cases worldwide, though passengers would need to travel in private vehicles across the border and be in a family "bubble".

* Burkina Faso on Friday reported an outbreak of the highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu, which it said in a statement had been detected across 42 hotspots.