World News in Brief: July 19

Singapore's DSO National Laboratories and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research jointly developed a new COVID-19 test kit, reducing the COVID-19 testing time from four hours to less than two hours, the Straits Times reported on Saturday (July 18). The new test kit, called Resolute, enables direct standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, which omits the processing of swab samples taken from patients and uses fewer raw materials than standard PCR test.

* The US Food and Drug Administration on Saturday issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) to Quest Diagnostics that allows pool samples from up to four individuals to test for COVID-19. The Quest test is the first COVID-19 diagnostic test to be authorized for use with pooled samples. Sample pooling is an important public health tool because it allows for more people to be tested quickly using fewer testing resources, said FDA.

* The World Health Organization reported a record increase in global coronavirus cases for the second day in a row, with the total rising by 259,848 in 24 hours. The biggest increases reported on Saturday were from the United States, Brazil, India and South Africa, according to a daily report. The previous WHO record for new cases was 237,743 on Friday. Deaths rose by 7,360, the biggest one-day increase since May 10. Deaths have been averaging 4,800 a day in July, up slightly from an average of 4,600 a day in June.

* Group 20 (G20) finance ministers and central banks governors vowed on Saturday to take immediate and exceptional measures to address COVID-19. During a video meeting held on Saturday, they welcomed the progress of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI), said a statement by the Saudi G20 Presidency. To date, 42 countries have requested to be benefited from the DSSI, amounting to an estimated US$5.3 billion of 2020 debt service to be deferred.

* The International Monetary Fund is exploring additional tools to provide financing to the world's poorest countries and others hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said on Saturday. Georgieva told finance ministers and central bank governors from the Group of 20 major economies that they should consider extending a freeze in official bilateral debt service payments offered to the poorest countries beyond the end of the year, and work to promote greater private-sector participation.

* Nearly four million people in India's northeastern state of Assam and neighbouring Nepal have been displaced by heavy flooding from monsoon rains, with dozens missing as deaths rose to at least 189, government officials said on Sunday.

* Kim Jong Un, the Chairman of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), presided over an enlarged military meeting on Saturday to discuss the strategic mission of the major units for coping with the military situation in the vicinity of the Korean Peninsula, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Sunday. The KCNA reported that the fifth enlarged meeting of the Seventh Central Military Commission (CMC) of the Workers' Party of Korea discussed the issues of intensifying the party's education and guidance of commanders and political officials of the army.

* Chinese health authority said Sunday (July 19) that it received reports of 16 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on the Chinese mainland Saturday, of which 13 were domestically transmitted. All domestically-transmitted cases were reported in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the National Health Commission said in its daily report. No deaths related to the disease were reported Saturday, according to the commission.

* Brazil registered 921 new deaths from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, bringing the nationwide count to 78,772, the country's health ministry said Saturday. Meanwhile, 28,532 newly confirmed cases were reported, taking its total to 2,074,860 nationwide, the ministry said. The southeast state of Sao Paulo, the country's most populous state, is the worst hit, with 412,027 cases and 19,647 deaths, followed by Rio de Janeiro with 134,449 cases and 11,757 deaths.

* Mexico's Health Ministry on Saturday posted a record for new coronavirus cases reported on a single day, with 7,615 more confirmed cases, bringing its overall tally of infections to 338,913, health ministry data showed. The ministry also reported 578 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 38,888 deaths. The government has said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

* India's federal health ministry Sunday morning said 543 new deaths due to COVID-19 and 38,902 more cases were reported during the past 24 hours across the country, taking the number of deaths to 26,816 and total cases to 1,077,618. This is the highest single-day spike in terms of new COVID-19 cases in the country so far. According to ministry officials, so far 677,423 people have been discharged from hospitals after showing improvement.

* People in Melbourne must now wear masks when leaving their homes as Victoria, Australia's second most-populous state, marked two weeks of triple-digit increases in new coronavirus infections on Sunday. Melbournians not wearing face coverings will be fined AUD200 (US$140), said Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews. Victoria, which has forced nearly 5 million people into a partial six-week lockdown on July 9, reported 363 new cases of the coronavirus on Sunday, after 217 cases the previous day.

* The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 202 to 201,574, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Sunday. The reported death toll rose by 1 to 9,084, the tally showed.

* Some 25 million people in Iran have so far contracted the novel coronavirus, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday. He called on the health authorities to provide enough medical equipment and treatment services to tackle the rise of COVID-19 infections. Iran reported 271,606 COVID-19 cases as of Saturday with the death toll at 13,979.

* The Chilean Ministry of Health reported on Saturday that the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country has risen to 328,846, with 8,445 deaths. According to the ministry, 98 more deaths and 2,185 new cases were reported in the last 24 hours. Currently, 1,792 people were still hospitalized in intensive care units, with 1,465 patients on ventilators and 301 in critical condition, the ministry said.

* The leaders of France, Germany and Italy on Saturday threatened for the first time to use sanctions against countries that continued to violate a United Nations arms embargo on Libya.

* Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Saturday that lockdown measures used to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus "kill" and have "suffocated" the country's economy. The president's statement comes as Brazil's economy is expected to contract 6.4% this year, hit by the pandemic.

* Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's corruption trial was resumed on Sunday at the Jerusalem District Court. The second hearing of the trial, which Netanyahu and other defendants in the case were not obliged to attend, is focusing on an additional time given to his lawyers to study the investigation material.

* The Egyptian parliament is expected to hold a meeting this week to discuss the political and military situation in neighboring war-torn Libya, state-run Ahram Online news website reported. The discussion is to be followed by a vote to mandate President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi to intervene militarily in Libya to help defend the western neighbor against Turkish interventions.

* The death toll from a migrant boat disaster in Lake Van in eastern Turkey has risen to 54, the governor's office said on Saturday, after three weeks of search operations. The boat, which sank on June 27, is believed to have been carrying 55 to 60 migrants, according to Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu. Five people have been arrested in relation to the incident.