World News in Brief: July 17

An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.3 jolted 119 km N of Kokoda, Papua New Guinea at 02:50:24 GMT on Friday (July 17), the US Geological Survey said. The epicenter, with a depth of 85 km, was initially determined to be at 7.8 degrees south latitude and 147.7 degrees east longitude.

* China's national observatory issued a yellow alert for rainstorms on Friday as incessant downpours continued to wreak havoc in vast stretches of the country. China has a four-tier, color-coded weather warning system, with red representing the most severe, followed by orange, yellow and blue. Since June, continuous downpours have lashed large parts of southern China, and the waters of many rivers in the affected regions have exceeded warning levels.

* The United States reported a record high of more than 77,000 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of infections to 3,560,364, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, the death toll rose by 974, taking the country's total to 138,201.

* The Brazilian government reported on Thursday (July 16) that the country has registered over 2 million cases of the novel coronavirus after 45,403 new cases were confirmed in the last 24 hours, for a total of 2,012,151. According to the Ministry of Health, 1,322 deaths were recorded in the last 24-hour period, bringing the total to 76,688. Brazil has seen the world's second-largest outbreak, after the United States, in terms of both the death toll and caseload.

* The number of COVID-19 cases in India surpassed one million on Friday, as total deaths crossed 25,000, according to the latest data issued by federal health ministry. The ministry said 687 new deaths due to COVID-19 and 34,956 new cases were reported during the past 24 hours across the country, bringing the death toll to 25,602 and total cases to 1,003,832. It was the highest single day spike in the number of fresh cases in the country so far.

* Chinese health authority said Friday that it received reports of 10 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on the Chinese mainland Thursday, of which one was domestically transmitted. The domestically transmitted case was reported in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the National Health Commission said in its daily report. No deaths related to the disease were reported Thursday, according to the commission.

* Cambodia on Friday confirmed five new COVID-19 cases including two US diplomats, raising the total number of infections in the kingdom to 171, according to the Health Ministry. The Southeast Asian country has so far recorded a total of 171 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 133 patients cured and 38 hospitalized.

* Another 66 COVID-19 patients have died in Britain as of Wednesday afternoon, bringing the total coronavirus-related death toll in the country to 45,119, the British Department of Health and Social Care said Thursday. The figures include deaths in all settings, including hospitals, care homes and the wider community. As of Thursday morning, 292,552 people have tested positive for the disease in Britain, a daily increase of 642, according to the department.

* India’s largest integrated power company, Tata Power will develop 225 MW (megawatt) hybrid renewable power project to supply electricity to its Mumbai distribution unit, a company statement said Thursday. The project is required to be commissioned within 18 months from the date of execution of the power purchase agreement, valid for a period of 25 years from schedule operation date, the statement said.

* Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and German Chancellor Angela Merkel held talks on Thursday, with both sides agreeing to cooperate on the development of an effective vaccine to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Japanese government, during the 35-minute virtual meeting, Abe told Merkel that Japan will contribute to the development and distribution of vaccines via what is known as the ACT-Accelerator.

* New Zealand reported one new case of COVID-19, who was in managed isolation facilities, according to the Ministry of Health on Friday. It has been 77 days since the last case of COVID-19 was reported locally from an unknown source. The total number of confirmed cases was 1,199, with 22 COVID-19 related deaths, and there is no one receiving hospital-level care.

* Republic of Korea reported 60 more cases of the COVID-19 as of 0:00 a.m. Friday local time compared to 24 hours ago, raising the total number of infections to 13,672. The daily caseload stayed around 60 for two straight days due to the continued small cluster infections and imported cases. Of the new cases, 39 were imported from overseas, lifting the combined figure to 2,005. It continued to increase in double digits for 22 days in a row. Two more deaths were confirmed, leaving the death toll at 293.

* Russia and Germany have rejected the recent US threat to sanction the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, criticizing the move as disregard for Europe's energy sovereignty. The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, stretching 1,230 km from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea, involves the construction of two pipelines with a total capacity of 55 billion cubic meters per year from the Russian coast to Germany. The project is scheduled to start operation in the middle of 2020.

* Local entry and exit bans could now be imposed upon regions with high COVID-19 infection numbers or uncertain infection chains, the German government announced on Thursday. In view of the ongoing holiday and travel season in Germany, precautions had to be taken to prevent the coronavirus from spreading again, head of the Chancellery Helge Braun and the heads of the state chancelleries agreed.

* The European Central Bank (ECB) said on Thursday that it decided to keep monetary policy unchanged in its July meeting. The 19-nation eurozone base interest rate will remain at 0.00 percent, with the marginal lending rate and deposit rate remaining at 0.25 percent and minus 0.50 percent, respectively, according to a statement issued after the meeting.

* The European Union (EU) has earmarked almost EUR2.2 billion (US$2.5 billions) for 140 key transport projects, which will help support sustainable transport and create jobs, according to a press release from the European Commission on Thursday. The projects will receive funding through the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), the EU's grant scheme supporting transport infrastructure, said the release.

* Canadians' concerns about contracting COVID-19 are increasing even though the situation is clearly improving in the country, according to a survey issued by Canada's Angus Reid Institute Thursday. The survey finds that concerns about contracting the virus have rebounded after declining in each of the last three months, as 59 percent of Canadians said they are worried about getting sick, up 13 points from June.

* French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Thursday paid an official visit to Iraq to discuss bilateral relations and confirm France's support to Iraq in its fight against Islamic State (IS) . During his visit, Le Drian and his accompanying delegation met with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi in the Green Zone in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, where the two sides discussed the bilateral relations and issues of common concern, according to a statement issued by al-Kadhimi's media office.

* Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Thursday discussed the US "unilateral" policies and the ways to boost bilateral ties. In a telephone conversation, Rouhani called for enhancing the Tehran-Moscow comprehensive ties, particularly in their battle against COVID-19. Rouhani also underlined the importance of protecting measures to be taken by the signatories of 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, internationally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

* South Africa on Thursday reported a record high of 216 new COVID-19 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total death toll to 4,669, according to the country's health ministry. Meanwhile, 13,172 newly confirmed cases were reported, taking its total to 324,221, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in his daily update.

* Up to 17 out of all 21 provinces of Mongolia are now at risk for the bubonic plague, a senior official of the country's National Center for Zoonotic Diseases (NCZD) said Thursday. Bubonic plague is a bacterial disease that is spread by fleas living on wild rodents such as marmots. It can kill an adult in less than 24 hours if not treated in time, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Several cases of bubonic plague are recorded in Mongolia annually.

* The Nepali government planned to lift the ongoing suspension on domestic and international flights starting from August as the Himalayan country has seen a drop in new COVID-19 cases, said a senior official of Nepal's Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation. Both domestic and international flights have remained suspended in Nepal since March 22, except chartered flights for humanitarian purpose or delivery of medical goods.