World News in Brief: January 29

Saturday, 2022-01-29 18:03:01
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As the Omicron variant swept Italy late last year, it was unvaccinated elderly people and those who had not had a booster dose four or more months after their initial shots who were most likely to go to hospital or die from COVID-19, according to data and doctors.
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Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday the United States and NATO had not addressed Moscow's main security demands in their standoff over Ukraine but that it was ready to keep talking.

* A beach in eastern Thailand was declared a disaster area on Saturday as oil leaking from an underwater pipeline in the Gulf of Thailand continued to wash ashore and blacken the sand.

* Britain and Japan are preparing to hold a summit in Japan between prime ministers Boris Johnson and Kishida Fumio in mid-February, the Nikkei reported on Saturday.

* Russia signaled on Friday that it could call a vote to prevent the U.N. Security Council from meeting publicly on Monday, at the request of the United States, to discuss a build-up of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine.

* President Joe Biden said on Friday he will be moving US troops to Eastern European and NATO countries "in the near term."

* The coordinator of the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna called on Friday for political decisions to be taken "now" as negotiators head back to their home countries for a break until next week.

* West Africa's main regional bloc on Friday suspended Burkina Faso from its governing bodies over this week's military coup but stopped short of imposing any sanctions, its member states said in a statement.

* Australia will seek to be included in consultations about a trade dispute between the European Union and China launched by the EU at the World Trade Organisation, the Australian trade minister said on Saturday.

* Argentina has struck an agreement in principle with the International Monetary Fund over a new 44.5 billion USD standby deal, both sides said on Friday, a major breakthrough in tense talks to restructure loans the country cannot repay.

* The European Commission approved Pfizer's antiviral pill for COVID-19, while a British health agency said Omicron's BA.2 subtype appears to have a substantial growth advantage over the currently predominant BA.1 type.

* A COVID-19 vaccine that can be produced locally in low- and middle-income countries is yielding promising results in early clinical trials, researchers say.

* Global equity markets eked out gains on Friday at the end of a tumultuous week dominated by concerns over the Federal Reserve's monetary policy and geopolitical tensions between Russia and the West.

* US consumer spending fell in December, suggesting the economy lost speed heading into the new year amid snarled supply chains and raging COVID-19 infections, while annual inflation increased at a pace last seen nearly 40 years ago.

* Morale amongst Italian businesses and consumers fell sharply in January as the coronavirus crisis persists and high energy prices weigh on companies and households.

* Russia's daily coronavirus cases exceeded 100,000 on Saturday for the first time since the pandemic began, the coronavirus task force said.

* Ukraine registered a record daily high of 37,351 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, the health ministry said on Saturday.

* Australia suffered its deadliest day of the pandemic on Friday with nearly 100 deaths, but several large states said they expect hospital admissions to fall.

* Germany has the wave of Omicron infections "well under control" and may consider lifting some restrictions after a peak in late February.

* The estimated range of England's COVID-19 reproduction "R" number has fallen to between 0.7 and 0.9, the UK Health Security Agency said.

* Brazil reported 269,968 new cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours and 799 deaths due to COVID-19, data from the Health Ministry showed on Friday.

* Mexico's Health Ministry on Friday reported 437 more fatalities from COVID-19 and 45,115 new infections, bringing the overall death toll to 305,240 and the number of cases to 4,873,561.

* The Republic of Korea reported 17,542 new coronavirus cases for Friday, another daily record after posting 16,096 a day before, amid the spread of the highly infectious Omicron variant, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said on Saturday.

* Canada has moved past the worst of Omicron on some parameters, but hospitalizations continue to rise, its top health official said.

* Nigeria's vaccine rollout has slowly gained pace as public confidence increases and the government has assured citizens they will not receive expired doses.

* Israel has signed a deal to buy 5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from Novavax, its health ministry said

* Merck and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics said six lab studies showed their experimental oral COVID-19 drug was active against Omicron.

* Brazilian health regulator Anvisa approved the sale of COVID-19 self-tests in the country's drugstores.

* A magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck Kermadec Islands region north of New Zealand, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) said on Friday.

* The International Monetary Fund's (IMF) board on Friday said it continued to have strong engagement with El Salvador and that no determination had been made on whether it could lend to the country which has made the cryptocurrency bitcoin legal tender.

* European states combating Islamist militants in Mali will try to find a way to keep their mission going, but there are limits to the price that France is prepared to pay to remain there, French Defence Minister Florence Parly said on Saturday.
* The United States plans to reroute 67 million USD of military assistance for Lebanon's armed forces to support members of the military as the country grapples with financial meltdown.

* Australia will spend an additional 50 million AUD (35 million USD) in the next four years to protect koala habitat and slow the decline of the vulnerable species, the government said on Saturday.

* Peru's environment ministry and Repsol SA on Friday increased the estimated size of a Pacific Ocean oil spill at a company refinery to over 10,000 barrels - significantly higher than an initial estimate of 6,000 barrels.