World News in Brief: January 22

Germany on Friday laid out its programme for its presidency of the Group of Seven (G7) this year, focusing on climate protection, international justice and post-pandemic economic recovery.

Three US studies show that a third dose of an mRNA vaccine is key to fighting the Omicron coronavirus variant, providing 90% protection against hospitalization due to COVID-19, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Three US studies show that a third dose of an mRNA vaccine is key to fighting the Omicron coronavirus variant, providing 90% protection against hospitalization due to COVID-19, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

* Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US counterpart Antony Blinken agreed during talks in Geneva on Friday to step up efforts to normalise the work of their respective embassies and the visa regime between them, Russia's foreign ministry said.

* British foreign minister Liz Truss is expected to visit Moscow in February for talks with her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, the RIA news agency reported on Saturday, citing a diplomatic source.

* US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio agreed in a virtual meeting on Friday to boost cooperation on pressing economic and security issues.

* The UK Health Security Agency has designated a sub-lineage of the dominant and highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant as a variant under investigation, saying it could have a growth advantage.

* NATO rejected on Friday Russian demands to withdraw its forces from Romania and Bulgaria as diplomatic efforts continued to prevent a war in Europe.

* The first shipment of the United States' 200 million USD security support package for Ukraine arrived in Kyiv, the US Embassy said on Saturday.

* Tongans queued for limited money services that were restored in the Pacific island's capital on Saturday, as the clean-up continued a week after a devastating volcanic eruption and tsunami.

* China's capital Beijing urged all its local districts on Saturday to maintain "full emergency mode" as the city continued to report new local coronavirus cases, less than two weeks before the start of the Winter Olympic Games.

* Russia reported on Saturday a new record number of COVID-19 infections confirmed in the past 24 hours as the Omicron variant of the virus spreads across the country, the government coronavirus task force said.

* In India, Delhi will remain under curfew over the weekend and overnight to help curb the spread of the Omicron variant, the city's disaster management authority said.

* Tokyo recorded its fourth record number of daily COVID-19 infections on Saturday, breaking above 10,000, while Japan's exceeded 50,000 for the first time as the Omicron variant continues to spread rapidly.

* Brazil has had 166,539 new cases of the novel coronavirus reported in the past 24 hours, and 358 deaths from COVID-19, the health ministry said on Friday.

* Poland reported a record 40,876 new daily COVID-19 infections on Saturday, the health ministry said, as the Omicron variant takes hold across the country.

* The US Postal Service has begun shipping free at-home rapid COVID-19 tests after millions of orders were placed through a new federal website launched this week, the White House said on Friday as the rise in Omicron-related cases shifted nationwide.

* European Union health ministers were told to prepare to deploy a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccines as soon as data showed it was needed, as the bloc faces a surge in cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

* Ireland is to scrap almost all its COVID-19 restrictions on Saturday after coming though the storm of the Omicron variant that led to a massive surge in infections, Prime Minister Micheal Martin said in a national address.

* Canada is seeing early signs that a wave of infections caused by the Omicron variant of COVID-19 may have peaked, but hospitals are still under intense strain, chief public health officer Theresa Tam said.

* Belgium announced a slight easing of its coronavirus restrictions on Friday despite record infections and also determined that people will need booster shots after five months to maintain COVID-19 passes giving access to bars or cinemas.

* The US Transportation Department said it would suspend 44 China-bound flights from the United States by four Chinese carriers in response to the Chinese government's decision to suspend some US carrier flights over COVID-19 concerns.

* 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 National Treasury said.

* Risk aversion dominated markets on Friday as stocks slumped on Wall Street and in Europe, oil prices fell from seven-year highs earlier in the week and bond prices surged with traders scurrying for the relative safety of government debt.

* Germany's planned minimum wage hike to 12 euros (13.61 USD) per hour from October means a pay rise for over 6 million people across the country and should not cost jobs contrary to critics, Labour Minister Hubertus Heil said on Friday.

* Qatar will establish an escrow account with both Gaza's electricity and electricity distribution companies to cover the costs of gas supply and generating electricity through Gaza's only power plant, the Qatari foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday.

* A magnitude 6.2 earthquake struck south of Unalaska in Alaska, a major fishing port with 4,700 full-time residents, on Friday, the Alaska Earthquake Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks said.

* At least 13 people were killed and scores injured when a truck carrying explosives to a gold mine in western Ghana detonated, flattening a rural community, the police said on Friday.