World News in Brief: January 21

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks with the United States in Geneva on Friday that dialogue would continue over Moscow's security demands and that it expected written responses from Washington next week.

Austria's lower house of parliament passed a bill on Thursday making COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory for adults as of Feb. 1, bringing Austria closer to introducing the first such sweeping coronavirus vaccine mandate in the European Union.
Austria's lower house of parliament passed a bill on Thursday making COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory for adults as of Feb. 1, bringing Austria closer to introducing the first such sweeping coronavirus vaccine mandate in the European Union.

* Iran, China and Russia held their third joint naval drills in the northern Indian Ocean on Friday, state TV reported.

* Both Russia and Ukraine are open to the idea of Turkey playing a role to ease tensions between the two countries, as proposed by Ankara in November, Turkish diplomatic sources said on Thursday.

* The security guarantees that Russia seeks from the West include provisions requiring NATO forces to leave Romania and Bulgaria, the Russian foreign ministry said on Friday.

* Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday that the new AUKUS defence alliance with Britain and the United States will contribute to peace, stability and security in the Indo-Pacific region.

* Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has invited his British counterpart Ben Wallace to visit Moscow for talks on security and easing tensions in Europe, the Interfax news agency cited the ministry as saying on Friday.

* The UK landbridge that offered traders the fastest route between Ireland and the European continent before Brexit will not re-emerge as a preferred option for moving goods, the head of Dublin Port was quoted as saying on Friday.

* China reported on Friday the lowest daily tally of confirmed locally transmitted COVID-19 cases in nearly two months, while infections edged up in the capital Beijing amid high virus alert before its hosting of the Winter Olympics Games.

* Russia reported a new record number of confirmed infections in the past 24 hours.

* India's capital is set to lift a weekend curfew and allow private offices to be partially staffed after a fall in new infections.

* President Joe Biden will urge US mayors to use more of their state and local COVID-19 aid funds to expand their workforces, a White House official said, an effort partly aimed at easing economic bottlenecks and inflation.

* The Republic of Korea unveiled a 11.75 billion USD supplementary budget to support the self-employed and small businesses that have taken a heavy hit from extended curbs.

* European Union health ministers will try to find a common line on Friday over a potential fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccines, amid a surge in cases sparked by the Omicron variant.

* Singapore will extend its booster vaccination programme to adolescents aged 12 to 17 years from next month.

* Germany reported a record 140,160 new cases, and sources said the health minister had warned the country could see at least 400,000 cases per day by mid-February.

* Pakistan reported over 7,000 cases in a single day, its highest daily number since the pandemic began, as the south Asian nation imposes new restrictions.

* European shares dropped, following on from losses in Asia and a late slump in the US as fears about the pace of monetary policy tightening and a batch of weaker-than-expected earnings knocked investor confidence again.

* Brazil's central bank chief said the Omicron variant has not yet had a major impact on the country's economy and was not expected to because the government has not placed restrictions on mobility.

* The World Bank has approved a loan of 750 million USD to South Africa linked to COVID-19, aiming to help protect the poor and support economic recovery from the pandemic.

* The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is announcing Thursday it is requiring that non-U.S. essential workers such as truck drivers and nurses who are crossing land borders be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, effective Saturday.

* Canada's most populous province of Ontario has blunted transmission of the Omicron coronavirus variant and will gradually ease restrictions on businesses from end-January, Premier Doug Ford said on Thursday.

* France will ease work-from-home rules from early February and allow nightclubs to reopen two weeks later as the general COVID-19 situation in the country is starting to improve, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Thursday.

* Israel will ditch mandatory quarantine for children exposed to COVID-19 carriers, the government said on Thursday, citing a need to relieve parents and schools as case numbers spiral due to the fast-spreading but low-morbidity Omicron variant.

* The European Union said on Friday it was re-establishing a physical presence in Afghanistan for humanitarian purposes, but stressed it was not formally recognising the Taliban-led administration.

* Airlines should pay for all of their CO2 emissions in Europe from 2026, a year earlier than initially planned by the EU, according to an early draft of the European Parliament's position on the policy.

* People should get to work in offices to benefit from in-person collaboration because the world must learn to live with the coronavirus after a pandemic, Britain's business minister said.

* Three children and more than 60 adults are reported to have been killed in air strikes in Yemen, a statement from Save the Children said on Friday, without providing any details.

* At least 17 people were killed and scores injured when a truck carrying explosives to a gold mine in western Ghana collided with a motorcycle, setting off an explosion that flattened a rural community, the government said on Friday.