World News in Brief: June 17

Wednesday, 2020-06-17 16:12:18
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A pharmacist displays a box of Dexamethasone at the Erasme Hospital amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo: Reuters)
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The World Health Organization (WHO) hailed as "great news" initial clinical trial results that showed a cheap and widely used steroid called dexamethasone can help save the lives of critically ill COVID-19 patients. "This is the first treatment to be shown to reduce mortality in patients with COVID-19 requiring oxygen or ventilator support," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement late on Tuesday (June 16).

* Beijing's city government reported 31 new confirmed coronavirus cases as of end-June 16, up from 27 cases reported a day earlier as the capital of China moves to curb the spread of the disease.

* The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday reported 2,104,346 cases of coronavirus, an increase of 18,577 cases from its previous count, and said that the number of deaths had risen by 496 to 116,140.

* Mexico's total confirmed coronavirus infections rose to 154,863 cases and 18,310 total deaths on Tuesday, as the health ministry reported 4,599 new infections along with 730 additional fatalities.

* Brazil set a daily record on Tuesday for new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in a single day, as its case load grew by 34,918 patients in 24 hours to 923,189 total infections, the most in the world outside the United States. Brazil also registered 1,282 COVID-19 deaths since its last update on Monday, the Health Ministry said, bringing confirmed fatalities in the country to 45,241.

* Indonesia reported 1,031 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday (June 17) taking the total to 41,431 and overtaking Singapore with the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia. Health ministry official Achmad Yurianto said 45 more deaths were reported on Wednesday, taking the total number of fatalities to 2,276. Indonesia has the highest coronavirus death toll in East Asia outside of China.

* Thailand on Wednesday reported no new coronavirus infections or deaths, marking 23 successive days without a domestic transmission. The country has recorded a total 58 deaths related to COVID-19 among 3,135 confirmed cases, of which 2,996 patients have recovered, said Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a spokesman for the government's COVID-19 Administration Centre. Wednesday is the third consecutive day that no cases were reported. All recent cases have been found among Thais in quarantine after returning from abroad.

* Russia on Wednesday reported 7,843 new cases of the novel coronavirus, its lowest daily caseload registered since April 30, pushing the nationwide total to 553,301. Russia's virus response team said 194 people had died in the last 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 7,478 since the crisis began.

* The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 345 to 187,184, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Wednesday. The reported death toll rose by 30 to 8,830, the tally showed.

* Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) said on Wednesday it had rejected a Republic of Korean (ROK) offer to send special envoys to ease escalating tension over defiance by DPRK defectors and stalled reconciliation efforts, and it vowed to redeploy troops to border areas. The DPRK announcements came a day after it blew up a joint liaison office set up on its side of the border as part of a 2018 peace agreement between the two countries' leaders.

* The United States scrambled fighter jets to escort four Russian nuclear-capable Tupolev Tu-95MS strategic bombers as they carried out a planned flight near the US border, the RIA news agency cited the Russian Defence Ministry as saying. The Russian aircraft carried out an 11-hour flight over neutral waters of the Chukotsk, Bering and Okhotsk Seas as well as the northern part of the Pacific Ocean, the ministry was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

* Participants in the Open Skies treaty will hold a conference on July 6 in light of the planned exit of the United States, Russia's RIA news agency reported the foreign ministry as saying on Wednesday. Last month the United States announced its intention to withdraw from the treaty which permits unarmed surveillance flights over member countries in the Trump administration's latest move to pull the country out of major global agreements.

* Around 7.8 million French people were on temporary unemployment packages at the end of May, said French jobs minister Muriel Penicaud on Wednesday. Penicaud also told Radio Classique that the French state had spent around EUR17 billion (US$19.2 billion) on those packages in the last three months.

* Germany's smartphone app to help trace coronavirus infections has been downloaded 6.5 million times in the first 24 hours since its launch, the chief executive of software company SAP said on Wednesday. Germany joins European countries like Italy, Poland and Latvia in launching apps that use Bluetooth wireless to measure contacts between people and issue a warning should one of them later test positive for COVID-19.

* Ukraine has received military aid worth more than US$60 million from the United States, including Javelin anti-tank missiles, the US embassy said on Wednesday.

* Spain's most recent favourable employment indicators anticipate an economic recovery in the second half of the year after the severe impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Economy Minister Nadia Calvino said on Wednesday. Nadia Calvino said 1 million furloughed workers were working again and 300,000 new workers affiliated to social security.

* Kyrgyzstan's parliament confirmed Kubatbek Boronov as prime minister on Wednesday, after his predecessor resigned due to a corruption probe against former cabinet officials. Boronov, 55, has served as the first deputy prime minister in the previous cabinet and worked as minister of emergency situations in the past.

* Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez has been diagnosed with the coronavirus, is receiving treatment and will work remotely and through his aides, he said late on Tuesday. Honduras has reported 9,656 virus infections and 330 deaths.

* Australia is unlikely to reopen its border to international travellers until next year but will look to relax entry rules for students and other long-term visitors, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said on Wednesday. Birmingham said a quarantine rule for returning citizens could be applied to international students and other visitors who plan to stay for a long period of time. Australia has had more than 7,300 cases of the coronavirus and 102 people have died from COVID-19, the disease it causes.

* New Zealand on Wednesday said the defence force will now oversee the country's quarantine facilities and strengthen border requirements, after a slip up allowed two people with coronavirus to move around the country. New Zealand on Tuesday lost its COVID-free status when two women who had been given permission to leave quarantine early on compassionate grounds after arriving from Britain tested positive for the coronavirus.

* The World Bank said on Tuesday it would provide US$400 million to support universal health coverage in Egypt as the country struggles with rising numbers of new coronavirus cases. Egypt's health ministry has confirmed 47,856 coronavirus cases, and 1,766 deaths, with the daily increase in cases rising in recent weeks as the government has slightly eased some restrictions on movement.

* The United States would like a face-to-face meeting with Iran to discuss prisoner releases and it wants the UN Security Council to impose an indefinite arms embargo on the Islamic Republic, a senior US diplomat said on Tuesday. The two adversaries disagree on many issues, including US President Donald Trump's decision two years ago to abandon the 2015 Iran nuclear deal under which Tehran limited its nuclear program in return for economic sanctions relief.

* The United Arab Emirates can work with Israel on some areas, including fighting the new coronavirus and on technology, while still having political differences with the state, the minister of state for foreign affairs said on Tuesday. Addressing a conference of the American Jewish Committee, a leading Jewish advocacy group, Anwar Gargash said communication with Israel is important and will yield better results than other routes taken in the past.