World News in Brief: January 17

The global job market will take longer to recover than previously thought, with unemployment levels set to remain above pre-COVID-19 levels until at least 2023 due to uncertainty about the pandemic's course and duration, the International Labour Organization said in a report.

Thailand is considering bringing back a quarantine waiver for vaccinated visitors, its health minister said on Monday, as part of a proposed easing of some COVID-19 measures later this week. (File photo: AFP)
Thailand is considering bringing back a quarantine waiver for vaccinated visitors, its health minister said on Monday, as part of a proposed easing of some COVID-19 measures later this week. (File photo: AFP)

* Russia on Monday urged Germany and the European Union not to drag its feet over certification of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which has become a focal point in political disputes between Moscow and the West.

* US President Joe Biden will meet virtually on Friday with Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio discuss the two nations' economies, security matters, climate change and other bilateral issues, the White House announced on Sunday.

* European shares were slightly higher in early trading as investors focused on company earnings and US Federal Reserve policymakers entered a quiet period ahead of their meeting next week.

* Several Chinese cities went on high alert as the Lunar New Year holiday travel season started, requiring travellers to report their trips days before their arrival as the Omicron variant reached more areas including Beijing.

* Japan will bring forward booster shots by as much as two months, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said, as governors of Tokyo and surrounding prefectures agreed to request further measures from the central government, including shorter opening hours for bars and restaurants.

* India's capital Delhi and financial hub Mumbai have reported a big fall in infections in the past two days and most of those who contracted the virus have recovered at home, authorities said.

* The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended donning "the most protective mask you can" while stopping short of advocating nationwide usage of N95 respirators.

* Influenza has returned to Europe at a faster-than-expected rate this winter after almost disappearing last year, raising concerns about a prolonged "twindemic" with COVID-19 amid some doubts about the effectiveness of flu vaccines.

* World men's tennis No. 1 Novak Djokovic returned home reluctantly after being kicked out of the Australian Open due to his unvaccinated status which could now cloud his participation in future tournaments.

* The United Kingdom is drawing up plans under which people will not be legally bound to self-isolate after catching COVID-19, The Telegraph reported.

* Thousands of protesters packed Amsterdam's streets on Sunday in opposition to the government-imposed COVID-19 measures and vaccination campaign as infections hit a new record.

* Italy reported 149,512 COVID-19 related cases on Sunday, after 180,426 the day before, the health ministry said, while the number of deaths fell to 248 from 308.

* Austria's government proposed setting the minimum age for mandatory vaccinations against COVID-19 at 18 and rolling out the programme in stages from Feb. 1.

* Israel's cabinet approved additional state aid to help bail out airlines suffering another pandemic blow with the spread of the Omicron variant.

* Moderna Inc's vaccine candidate against the Omicron coronavirus variant will enter clinical development in the next few weeks and the company expects to be able to share data with regulators around March, CEO Stephane Bancel said on Monday.

* India's Gennova Biopharmaceuticals is working on an Omicron-specific mRNA COVID-19 vaccine candidate, it told Reuters on Monday, after a person with direct knowledge of the matter said the product could be ready in a month or two.

* Shionogi & Co Ltd started a Phase III trial in Japan of its vaccine candidate S-268019 that will compare its results to that of an approved vaccine.

* Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told French TV station BFM TV that the company was making a 520 million euro investment plan in France to help tackle COVID-19.

* Pakistani health authorities on Monday announced the completion of a successful clinical trial of Chinese traditional herbal medicine for treating COVID-19, as the South Asian nation enters a fifth wave of the pandemic driven by the Omicron variant.

* Tanzania and Burundi have signed an agreement to construct a 900 million USD railway line linking the two countries and are looking for financial backers for the project, Tanzania's finance ministry said in a statement issued late on Sunday.

* Gunmen killed at least 50 people in a raid on an area of northwest Nigeria, residents said on Sunday.

* The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen said on Monday it had destroyed eight drones launched towards the kingdom, Saudi state media reported.