World News in Brief: May 16

Saturday, 2020-05-16 10:29:20
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World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Friday (May 15) said that scientists and researchers are working at "breakneck" speed to find solutions for COVID-19 but the pandemic can only be beaten with equitable distribution of medicines and vaccines. The WHO also described an inflammatory disease being seen in children that has also been connected to COVID-19.

* Big technology companies that are reaping gains as result of increased reliance on online systems during the coronavirus crisis should work to increase access to the digital economy for all, the head of the IMF said on Friday. International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva told an event hosted by Politico that the crisis was devastating the global economy, but it also offered an opportunity to tackle persistent inequality and other priorities such as climate change, if recovery funds were properly focused.

* The US-China "Phase 1" trade deal reached in January is not falling apart and the two countries are still working to implement it, the White House's top economic adviser said on Friday, but President Donald Trump added that he was not "thrilled" with the agreement. Larry Kudlow told reporters at the White House the trade deal "is continuing," a day after Trump suggested he could cut ties with the world's second-largest economy.

* Mainland China reported eight new confirmed COVID-19 cases for May 15, up from four the previous day, the National Health Commission (NHC) said in a statement on May 16. Six of the eight confirmed cases are so-called imported infections, while two are locally transmitted in northeastern Jilin Province. The number of confirmed cases in the mainland stands at 82,941 and the death toll at 4,633.

* The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday reported 1,412,121 cases of the new coronavirus, an increase of 27,191 cases from its previous count, and said that the number of deaths had risen by 2,043 to 85,990. The CDC reported its tally of cases of the respiratory illness known as COVID-19, caused by the new coronavirus, as of 4 pm ET on May 14, compared with its count a day earlier.

* The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 620 to 173,772, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Saturday (May 16). The reported death toll rose by 57 to 7,881, the tally showed.

* France's new coronavirus deaths reported on Friday were three times lower than 24 hours earlier while new confirmed cases of the COVID-19 disease kept on rising at the same slow rate of 0.4%, as the country continues to unwind its lockdown. In a statement, the health ministry said there were 104 new fatalities compared to 351 on Thursday, bringing the total to 27,529, still the fourth-highest in the world, after those of the United States, Britain and Italy, and just ahead of Spain. In a statement, the ministry added the number of confirmed cases was up 563 to 141,919.

* Portugal will reopen its beaches on June 6, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said on Friday, and he encouraged the public to download an app that will tell them if their beach of choice is full or still has space. Portugal has reported 28,583 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus and 1,190 deaths, a very low toll in contrast with neighbouring Spain's 27,000 fatalities.

* Spain imposed a quarantine on incoming overseas passengers on Friday and added new travel restrictions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as the country's daily death toll falls. From Friday, anyone arriving from abroad must spend two weeks self-quarantined at home or in a hotel. Additionally, authorities extended existing restrictions to entry into Spain until June 15 and limited access to five airports and eight sea ports.

* The US House of Representatives on Friday narrowly approved a US$3 trillion bill crafted by Democrats to provide more aid for battling the coronavirus and stimulating a faltering economy rocked by the pandemic. By a vote of 208-199 Democrats won passage of a bill that Republican leaders, who control the Senate, have vowed to block despite some Republican support for provisions aimed at helping state and local governments. Republican President Donald Trump has promised a veto if it were to reach his desk.

* The reproduction rate of the coronavirus in the United Kingdom is now somewhere between 0.7 and 1.0, government scientific advisers said on Friday, a slight rise on figures given last week. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last week the rate was 0.5 to 0.9. The government has said it will keep a close eye on the so-called 'R' rate as it looks at how quickly to ease lockdown measures first introduced in March. As the number is below one, the virus is not spreading exponentially, but the rise in the number means that infections are falling more slowly now.

* Prime Minister Boris Johnson told his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar on Friday that he believed it was possible to reach an agreement with the European Union over Britain's future relationship, Johnson's office said. Britain and the European Union both demanded that the other side give ground in talks on a new post-Brexit trade deal or risk severe damage, in tetchy exchanges after the latest bout of bargaining ended with scant progress on Friday.

* President Donald Trump said on Friday the US government was working with other countries to develop, quickly, a vaccine to prevent infection by the coronavirus while also preparing for its distribution once one is ready. At an event in the White House Rose Garden, Trump expressed his hope that a vaccine would be in place before the end of the year, and said his administration would mobilize its forces to get a vaccine distributed.

* Air Canada said on Friday it has decided to reduce its workforce by up to 60% as the airline tries to save cash amid the COVID-19 pandemic and right size its operations to the level of traffic expected in the mid-to-longer term. The airline was working with unions to implement these measures, it said in an emailed statement.

* Peru's economy slumped 16.26% in March versus the same month a year earlier, the government said on Friday, underscoring the significant impact of the coronavirus pandemic in the world's second-largest copper producing country. That drop, after the country imposed a nationwide quarantine in March, was the worst monthly fall since at least the early 1990s, according to data from Peru's statistics agency INEI, reflecting how the virus is battering economies worldwide.

* Colombia will work with hard-hit Brazil to increase the military presence along their Amazonian border and share information in an effort to fight an increasing number of coronavirus cases in the area, Colombian President Ivan Duque said on Friday. The series of measures was agreed during a virtual meeting between Colombia's health, defense and foreign ministers and Brazilian officials, Duque said. Colombia has more than 14,200 cases and more than 540 deaths.

* An explosion was heard in Syria's city of Aleppo early on Saturday, Syrian state TV said. No further details were immediately available.

* Panama has extended by one month to June 22 its ban on international flights due to the coronavirus outbreak, the country's aviation autority said on Friday. The Panama Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement the suspension was due to concerns about "public health".