World News in Brief: January 31

India forecast its economy will grow 8% to 8.5% for the fiscal year starting in April, down from 9.2% projected in the current year, as it fights a spike in COVID-19 cases and rising inflationary pressure.

Indonesia's holiday island of Bali will start welcoming back travellers from all countries later this week, more than three months after announcing it was open to selected nationalities.
Indonesia's holiday island of Bali will start welcoming back travellers from all countries later this week, more than three months after announcing it was open to selected nationalities.

* Russian President Vladimir Putin will respond to proposals from the United States and NATO "when he considers it necessary", with no date set for now, the Kremlin said on Monday.

* Air pollution in 339 Chinese cities improved in 2021, with average concentrations of small, hazardous airborne particles known as PM2.5 down 9.1% from a year earlier to 30 micrograms per cubic metre, official data showed on Monday.

* Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will speak by phone with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Feb. 1, the TASS news agency quoted a Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman as saying on Monday.

* US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to travel to Australia in February to meet counterparts from Japan, India and Australia to discuss Indo-Pacific coordination, the Australian government said on Monday.

* Portugal's centre-left Socialists won an outright parliamentary majority in Sunday's snap general election, securing a strong new mandate for Prime Minister Antonio Costa, a champion of balanced public accounts.

* Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan will visit Ukraine on Thursday for talks with President Volodymry Zelenskiy that are meant to ease tensions between Kyiv and Russia, a senior Turkish official said on Monday.

* Egypt expects to issue 5 billion USD in international bonds in the 2022 to 2023 financial year which starts in July, Deputy Finance Minister Ahmed Kouchouk told Asharq Business on Monday.

* British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday that his finance minister Rishi Sunak was looking to bring forward a package of measures to help people cope with a rise in energy costs.

* Iran will send a large trade delegation to the United Arab Emirates in February, the Tehran Times newspaper reported on Monday, a visit that would come against a backdrop of Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi movement launching attacks on the UAE.

* China detected 37 new cases of COVID-19 among Olympic Games related personnel on Jan. 30, up from 34 a day earlier, the organising committee of the Beijing 2022 Winter Games said on Monday.

* Record infections this month driven by the Omicron variant are expected to have hit consumer sentiment in Japan.

* The German government has failed to hit its goal of vaccinating 80% of the population against the coronavirus before the end of January, roughly a month before lawmakers are expected to vote on a draft law on mandatory vaccinations.

* Mexico on Sunday reported 131 more fatalities from COVID-19, raising the overall death toll since the pandemic began to 305,893.

* Australia's federal government will offer extra payments to aged care staff as over 1,200 nursing homes deal with COVID-19 outbreaks that have caused hundreds of deaths of elderly residents this year and staff shortages.

* Thousands of Czechs massed in Prague's Wenceslas Square on Sunday, waving flags and chanting slogans against COVID-19 restrictions, even as infections surged.

* Dozens of trucks and other vehicles blocked the downtown area of Ottawa for a second day after thousands descended on Canada's capital city on Saturday to protest against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

* Thousands of truck drivers from Argentina were stuck at the Chilean border on Saturday due to slow COVID-19 testing, as Chile faced its second transport delay crisis.

* Merck & Co's new antiviral pill, once touted as a potential game changer for treating COVID-19, is the last choice among four available options for at-risk patients given its relatively low efficacy and potential safety issues, US doctors, healthcare systems and pharmacies told Reuters.

* Japanese trading and pharmaceutical company Kowa Co Ltd anti-parasite drug ivermectin showed an "antiviral effect" against Omicron and other variants of coronavirus in joint non-clinical research.

* The Omicron wave slowed euro zone economic growth in the final quarter of 2021 compared to the previous three months, although the impact was much stronger in Germany than in France or Italy.

* Qatari Ministry of Health said on Sunday it had approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children aged 5-11 years.

* Algeria reported its first case of COVID-19's fast spreading BA.2 Omicron sub variant, Ennahar TV cited the general Director of Pasteur institute as saying on Sunday.

* The United Arab Emirates said on Monday it intercepted a ballistic missile fired by Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi movement as the UAE hosted Israeli President Isaac Herzog on his first visit to the Gulf business and tourism hub.

* More than 100,000 Americans died from diabetes in 2021, marking the second consecutive year for that grim milestone and spurring a call for a federal mobilization similar to the fight against HIV/AIDS.