World News in Brief: August 22

Saturday, 2020-08-22 15:42:55
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Pedestrians, including a man wearing a protective face mask amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), crosses a street in central Kyiv, Ukraine August 21, 2020. (Photo: Reuters)
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The World Health Organization hopes the coronavirus pandemic will be shorter than the 1918 Spanish flu and last less than two years, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Friday (August 21), if the world unites and succeeds in finding a vaccine. Tedros urged "national unity" and "global solidarity". More than 22.81 million people have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus globally since it was first identified in China last year and 793,382 have died, according to a Reuters tally.

* China's Sinovac Biotech has committed to provide 50 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine candidate to Indonesia's government from November to March, a minister and Indonesia's state-owned pharmaceutical company Bio Farma said. The Southeast Asian nation is seeking to secure a supply as cases rise unabated. Indonesia has recorded 149,408 coronavirus infections and 6,500 deaths and is keen to secure a vaccine for its 260 million people and develop its own. Phase III trials for Sinovac's CoronaVac began last week in Indonesia involving 1,620 volunteers.

* The Philippines reported 4,933 infections of the new coronavirus on Saturday (August 22), the fifth straight day above 4,000, and 26 COVID-19 deaths. In a bulletin, the health ministry said total confirmed cases have increased to 187,249 while confirmed deaths have reached 2,966. The Philippines has the most infections in Southeast Asia, and second-highest number of deaths, behind Indonesia.

* Britain's AstraZeneca has received regulatory approval to conduct part of a Phase III trial of its potential COVID-19 vaccine in Russia, a filing in the Russian registry of clinical trials showed on Friday. The trial of the AZD1222 vaccine will involve 150 participants and will be handled by four medical facilities in St. Petersburg and Moscow, the filing, dated Friday, showed. Moscow has previously agreed a deal with AstraZeneca to manufacture the potential vaccine, developed in tandem with Oxford University, at the facilities of Russian firm R-Pharm.

* The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday said the number of deaths due to the new coronavirus had risen by 1,074 to 173,490 and reported 5,551,793 cases, an increase of 44,864 cases from its previous count.

* Brazil reported 30,355 new cases of the novel coronavirus and 1,054 deaths from the disease caused by the virus in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said on Friday. Brazil has now registered 3,532,330 cases of the virus since the pandemic began, while the official death toll from COVID-19 has risen to 113,358, according to ministry data, marking the world's worst coronavirus outbreak after the United States.

* Russia reported 4,921 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, pushing its confirmed national tally up to 951,897. Authorities said 121 people had died of COVID-19 over the last 24 hours, raising the official death toll to 16,310.

* India reported a record daily jump of coronavirus infections on Saturday, bringing the total near 3 million and piling pressure on authorities to curb huge gatherings as a major religious festival began. The 69,878 new infections - the fourth straight day above 60,000 - take India's total cases to 2.98 million, behind only the United States and Brazil. COVID-19 deaths increased by 945 to 55,794, data from the federal health ministry showed. For most of western India, especially the financial capital Mumbai, the 11-day festival of Hindu elephant-headed god Ganesh is usually celebrated with big public gatherings.

* Australia's second most populous state, Victoria, reported 13 new coronavirus deaths in the 24 hours to Saturday morning, authorities said, while new infections in the hotspot state remained below 200 for the second consecutive day. Other than in Victoria, which accounts for over 80% of the country's COVID-19 deaths due to a second wave of infections, Australia has large avoided the high casualty numbers of many nations with about 24,500 infections and 485 deaths. Almost mid-way through a six-week lockdown, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said he was hopeful the toughened restrictions were working.

* Mexico's health ministry on Friday reported 5,928 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and 504 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 549,734 cases and 59,610 deaths. The government has said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

* Travelers from France to the United Kingdom will be required to self-certify that they are not suffering coronavirus symptoms or have been in contact with a confirmed case within 14 days preceding travel, the British government said on Friday. The imposition of quarantine conditions have hit Britons' favourite holiday destinations in the middle of summer and as the travel industry fights for survival. Other countries including Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Croatia and Austria are already on the government's quarantine list.

* The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 2,034 to 232,082, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Saturday. The reported death toll rose by 7 to 9,267, the tally showed.

* The United States was further isolated on Friday over its bid to reimpose international sanctions on Iran with 13 countries on the 15-member U.N. Security Council expressing their opposition, arguing that Washington's move is void given it is using a process agreed under a nuclear deal that it quit two years ago. The United States has accused Iran of breaching a 2015 deal with world powers that aimed to stop Tehran developing nuclear weapons in return for sanctions relief. But President Donald Trump described it as the "worst deal ever" and quit in 2018.

* Germany on Friday warned against travel to Brussels because of the high rate of coronavirus infections in the Belgian capital, which is also home to the main organs of the European Union. The German Foreign Ministry warned against non-essential travel to EU regions where there have been more than 50 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the past week. Belgium's province of Antwerp is already subject to a warning.

* A pair of tropical cyclones forecast to become hurricanes early next week are headed for the US Gulf Coast and will spin over the Gulf's warm waters simultaneously, a rare weather event that could cause massive disruption as they make landfall. There have never been two hurricanes in the U.S Gulf of Mexico at the same time, according to the National Hurricane Center. The closest event was in 1933, when a major hurricane made landfall in south Texas while a separate hurricane weakened to a tropical storm after crossing the Florida Peninsula, the NHC said.

* The French health ministry reported on Friday 4,586 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours after the country reached a post-lockdown record the previous day. The ministry also said the total for coronavirus deaths in the country had risen by 23 in the past 24 hours to 30,503. The number of patients in intensive care units was down by 1 to 379, the ministry also said. Total confirmed infection cases has increased to 234,400 in France.

* Sweden has chosen the right strategy in fighting the spread of the new coronavirus, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said on Friday, defending his government's decision not to adopt a strict lockdown as many European countries have done. More than 5,800 Swedes have died of COVID 19, a much higher death rate than in neighbouring Norway, Denmark and Finland which adopted much tougher measures than Sweden, leading many to question the government's approach. But Lofven said Sweden had made the correct choice.

* The United States and the European Union have hatched a mini-deal to cut imports tariffs on a small range of products, including US lobsters, in a sign of an easing of transatlantic trade tensions. The two, who have been in dispute over aircraft subsidies and US President Donald Trump's imposition of punitive tariffs on EU steel and aluminium, announced the deal in a joint statement on Friday.

* Authorities in Madrid on Friday advised residents in areas with a high level of coronavirus cases to stay at home as the Spanish health ministry reported more than 3,000 new infections for the fourth day running. The country logged 3,650 coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours, bringing the cumulative total to 386,054. With 1,199 infections, Madrid accounted for nearly a third of the new cases. A total of 28,838 people in Spain have been killed in the epidemic.

* The reproduction "R" number of COVID-19 infections in the United Kingdom has risen and may now be above 1, the Government Office for Science said on Friday, indicating a risk that the overall epidemic is growing. The UK R number is between 0.9 and 1.1, the government said, up from 0.8-1.0 last week. The daily growth rate for the UK as a whole is between -3% and 1%, up from -4% to -1%. The R number represents the average number of people that one infected person will pass the virus on to.

* South Africa's confirmed COVID-19 cases have surpassed 600,000, the health ministry said on Friday, although the number of new cases has been declining since a peak in July. Despite imposing one of the world's toughest lockdowns at the end of March when the country had only a few hundred cases, South Africa saw a surge in coronavirus infections that has left it the hardest hit on the continent. The ministry said in a statement South Africa now had a total of 603,338 cases and 12,843 deaths - accounting for more than half of the continent's cases and around 47% of its deaths, according to a Reuters tally of government and World Health Organization data.

* Turkey announced its biggest natural gas discovery on Friday, a 320 billion cubic metre (11.3 trillion cubic feet) Black Sea field which President Tayyip Erdogan said was part of even bigger reserves and could come onstream as soon as 2023. If the gas can be commercially extracted, the discovery could transform Turkey's dependence on Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan for energy imports. Erdogan said his country was determined ultimately to become a net energy exporter.

* The Czech authorities recorded 506 new coronavirus cases on Friday, the highest number of new infections in one day since the outbreak began there. Czechia has so far reported 21,551 confirmed cases of the virus, with 411 deaths, including 19 over the past week. The Czech government was among the first in Europe to introduce curbs on movement and business as the outbreak took hold. It began to lift restrictions since May but has reintroduced some measures as cases rose in recent weeks.

* Protesters in the southern Iraqi city of Basra set fire to parliament's local office on Friday as security forces fired live rounds in the air to disperse them, a Reuters witness and security sources said. The protesters had gathered to demand that Iraq's parliament sack the provincial governor after two activists were killed and others wounded in three separate attacks by unknown gunmen this week. Security forces opened fire while the protesters lobbed petrol bombs.

* Lebanon imposed a partial lockdown for two weeks starting on Friday in an effort to counter COVID-19 infections which have doubled since the catastrophic explosion at the Beirut port. The spread of COVID-19 is compounding the woes of a country still reeling from the Aug. 4 blast that killed at least 179 people and wounded 6,000, and a financial meltdown that has devastated the economy. Lebanon recorded its highest number of new daily infections on Friday, with 628 new cases and three deaths. The infections have spread since the blast as hospitals were flooded with the casualties, medics say.

* Ukraine registered a record 2,328 cases of the new coronavirus in the past 24 hours, officials said on Saturday. The data given by the national council of security and defence surpassed the previous single-day record of 2,134, reported on Thursday. Total cases are at 102,971, with 2,244 COVID-19 deaths. Infections have risen sharply recent days.

* Libya's internationally recognised government in Tripoli announced a ceasefire on Friday and the leader of a rival parliament in eastern Libya also appealed for a halt to hostilities. The statements offered hope for a deescalation of a regionalised conflict that has wracked the country since a 2011 uprising, displacing hundreds of thousands, slashing oil production and opening space for migrant smugglers and militants.

Reuters