World News in Brief: January 6

More than 85% of Indonesia's population has antibodies against COVID-19, a government-commissioned survey showed, but epidemiologists warned it was not clear whether this immunity could help contain a fresh wave of coronavirus infections.

Ireland will no longer require vaccinated arriving travellers to present a negative COVID-19 test, Prime Minister Micheál Martin said on Wednesday. A government spokesman said the change will take effect on Thursday.
Ireland will no longer require vaccinated arriving travellers to present a negative COVID-19 test, Prime Minister Micheál Martin said on Wednesday. A government spokesman said the change will take effect on Thursday.

* Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio and his Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison, agreed on Thursday their countries need to strengthen cooperation in such areas as cyber, space and economic security, a Japanese government official said.

* The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea fired a "hypersonic missile" this week that successfully hit a target, state news agency KCNA reported on Thursday, its second such test after the first ones in September.

* Several armoured personnel carriers and dozens of troops moving on foot entered the main square of Almaty, Kazakhstan's largest city, on Thursday morning where hundreds of people were protesting against the government for the third day, Reuters correspondents reported from the scene.

* Belarus summoned the Polish charge d'affaires in Minsk to inform him about the expulsion of a Polish diplomat, Warsaw said on Wednesday. Tensions have been running high between the neighbours over a migrant crisis that the European Union and Poland say was engineered by Belarus, a charge Minsk denies.

* Twelve people, including eight children, were killed early on Wednesday when flames swept through a public housing apartment building in Philadelphia (Pennsylvania state,the United States) in one of the city's worst such fires in recent years.

* More cities in central China resorted to tough curbs as new coronavirus infections in Henan province rose sharply, with authorities taking urgent action to contain clusters ahead of the Winter Olympics and Lunar New Year peak travel season.

* France's parliament on Thursday approved President Emmanuel Macron's plans for a vaccine pass to help curb the spread of the Omicron variant.

* Top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci warned against complacency about the Omicron variant, saying the sheer number of cases could strain hospitals despite signs of lower severity.

* India's new cases soared to 90,928 in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said, from 58,097 a day earlier.

* This year's Grammy Awards ceremony honouring top performances in music has been postponed indefinitely because of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

* Fuelled by the highly transmissible Omicron variant, Australia's daily coronavirus infections soared to a fresh peak on Thursday, overwhelming hospitals, while isolation rules caused labour shortages, putting a strain on businesses and supply chains.

* Italy made COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for people from the age of 50, one of very few European countries to take similar steps.

* Canadians are angered by people who are not vaccinated against COVID-19, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday, and he also promised more than 100 million rapid tests will be distributed quickly to provinces that are eagerly waiting.

* Brazil's Health Ministry said it will go ahead with the voluntary vaccination of children aged 5 to 11 years old against COVID-19 and dropped plans to require a doctor's prescription.

* US military bases in Japan introduced stricter COVID-19 measures after the government expressed grave concern about a surge of new infections and called for restrictions on the movement of US personnel.

* Israel changed its quarantine and testing policy in an effort to ensure continued protection for vulnerable populations from a surge in infections.

* Panama moved to require all public officials to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly coronavirus testing, the health minister said on Wednesday, as the Central American country grappled with a surge in coronavirus cases.

* India has not added Merck's COVID-19 pill to its national treatment protocol for the disease due to known safety concerns that have restricted its use elsewhere, a senior health official said on Wednesday.

* Pfizer expects the latest results from a clinical trial for kids under the age of 5 of the COVID-19 vaccine it developed with BioNTech by April.

* Asian shares fell on Thursday, extending a global slump after Federal Reserve meeting minutes pointed to a faster-than-expected rise in US interest rates due to concerns about persistent inflation.

* Shopper numbers in Britain deteriorated sharply in December, to 18.6% below 2019's level compared with November's 14.5% decline, industry data showed.

* New car registrations in Britain last year grew slightly from 2020 but were still far below pre-pandemic levels, reflecting a shortage of semiconductors as well as the direct impact of the pandemic.

* The United States on Wednesday began returning migrants to the Mexican city of Tijuana in an restart of a Trump-era program that forces asylum seekers to wait for US court hearings in Mexico, Mexican authorities and the U.N. migration agency said.

* Israeli tanks fired warning shots along the frontier with Syria in the Golan Heights after several suspicious figures were spotted near an Israeli force operating in the area, the Israeli military said.