World News in Brief: August 23

Sunday, 2020-08-23 14:39:13
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Afghan students attend a class in Asadabad, capital of Kunar province, eastern Afghanistan, Aug. 22, 2020. The Afghan government reopened schools on Saturday after a five-month shutdown due to the impact of COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Xinhua)
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In a message published on the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Violence Based on Religious Belief, which falls on Aug. 22, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday called on the international community to make efforts to put an end to hate and discrimination. While warning of a rise in racism since the spread of COVID-19 across the world, the UN chief noted that the pandemic has been accompanied by "a surge in stigma and racist discourse vilifying communities, spreading vile stereotypes and assigning blame."

* More than 23.06 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 798,997 have died, according to a Reuters tally. Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019.

* No new locally-transmitted COVID-19 cases were reported Saturday (August 22) across the Chinese mainland, the National Health Commission said Sunday. As of Saturday, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on the mainland had reached 84,951, including 422 patients who were still being treated, with 16 in severe condition. Altogether 79,895 people had been discharged after recovery, and 4,634 had died of the disease on the mainland.

* The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 46,754 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, marking the seventh consecutive day the daily count fell below 50,000 since Aug. 16. It is the first time that daily cases have dropped under 50,000 for a whole week since summer outbreaks from July. The number of COVID-19 cases in the United States topped 5.66 million as of Saturday evening with more than 176,300 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

* Brazil registered 50,032 new COVID-19 cases and 892 more deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the national caseload to 3,582,362 and the death toll to 114,250, the Ministry of Health reported on Saturday. Brazil is second only to the United States in terms of both cases and deaths from COVID-19.

* Mexico reported 6,482 more COVID-19 cases and 644 new deaths on Saturday, taking its national caseload to 556,216 and the death toll to 60,254, according to its health ministry. The government also said the actual number of infections could be significantly higher than the confirmed cases. The country now has the third-largest coronavirus death toll, only after the United States and Brazil.

* Russia registered 4,852 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking its total to 956,749, the country's COVID-19 response center said in a statement Sunday (August 23). Meanwhile, 73 new deaths were reported, taking the nationwide count to 16,383. Moscow, the country's worst-hit region, reported 611 new cases, taking its tally of infections to 257,124, the response center said. According to the statement, 770,639 people have recovered so far, including 3,162 over the past day.

* India's COVID-19 tally surpassed 3 million on Sunday reaching 3,044,940, according to the latest data released by the health ministry. The death toll due to the pandemic in the country also surged to 56,706. As many as 69,239 new cases and 912 deaths were reported during the past 24 hours. According to the data, there are still 707,668 active cases across India, even as 2,280,566 people have been successfully cured and discharged from hospitals.

* Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) reported 50 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, bringing the total confirmed cases in the country to 56,266. On Saturday, 269 more cases of COVID-19 infection have been discharged from hospitals or community isolation facilities. In all, 53,920 have recovered from the infection and have been discharged from hospitals or community care facilities, the ministry said. Altogether 27 people have passed away from complications due to COVID-19 infection.

* The total number of COVID-19 cases in Myanmar has increased to 444, with two more locally transmitted cases and one imported case reported on Sunday morning, according to a release from the Ministry of Health and Sports. Myanmar reported one new local transmission case again on Aug. 16 since last local case was reported in July 16. A total of 144,054 samples were tested for COVID-19 so far and 7,212 patients are under investigation at present, the ministry's figures showed. According to the ministry, 338 patients have recovered from the disease.

* The Republic of Korea (ROK) authorities reported the highest daily rise in novel coronavirus cases since early March on Sunday, saying tougher social distancing rules may be needed as outbreaks continued to spread from a Seoul church and other gatherings. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 397 new infections as of midnight Saturday, up from the previous day's 332 and marking more than a week of daily three-digit rises. That brings the ROK's total infections of the new coronavirus to 17,399 with 309 COVID-19 deaths, it said.

* The new coronavirus is circulating four times more among people under 40 in France than over among 65-year-olds, France's health minister said, though he warned that contamination was on the rise among the elderly and more vulnerable too. France reported a 3,602 hike in new COVID-19 infections over the past 24 hours on Saturday, a smaller rise than the previous day. The total of confirmed infection cases in France now stands at 238,002, while the number of people in intensive care units was up by 1, to 380.

* Italy's health ministry on Saturday reported 1,071 new coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours, exceeding 1,000 cases in a day for the first time since May when the government eased rigid lockdown measures. Italy, one of Europe's worst-hit countries with more than 35,000 deaths, has managed to contain the outbreak after a peak in deaths and cases between March and April. However, it has seen a steady increase in infections over the last month, with experts blaming holidays and night life for causing people to gather in numbers.

* The United Kingdom recorded 1,288 new positive cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, up from 1,033 a day earlier, government figures showed. Eighteen people died after testing positive for the coronavirus within 28 days, up from two a day earlier. The new cases were recorded as the government ramps up testing so it can suppress the spread of the virus and ease restrictions that have crippled the economy.

* China's national observatory on Sunday issued a blue alert for rainstorms in several provinces and regions. From 8 a.m. Sunday to 8 a.m. Monday, torrential rains are expected to lash parts of Shaanxi, Shanxi, Hebei, Beijing, Tianjin, Liaoning and the Sichuan Basin, the National Meteorological Center said. The center warned that certain areas of Beijing and Sichuan Basin will experience downpours.

* Marco, one of two tropical storms headed for the US Gulf Coast, was forecast to become a hurricane later on Sunday, the United States National Hurricane Center (NHC) said. Storm surge and hurricane watches were in effect for parts of the northern Gulf Coast, the NHC said, adding that Marco was located about 135 miles (220 kilometers) northwest of Cuba's western tip, with maximum sustained winds of 70 miles per hour.

* Floods in India's eastern state of Bihar have affected over 8.3 million people, officials said Saturday. According to Bihar Disaster Management Department (BDMD), the ongoing floods have inundated 16 districts across the state affecting a population of 8,362,451. According to officials, the floods have so far claimed 27 lives in six districts, including 11 in Darbhanga, six in Muzaffarpur, four in West Champaran and two each in Khagaria, Saran and Siwan.

* The European Union (EU) on Saturday welcomed the cease-fire announcements made by the UN-backed Prime Minister of Libya Fayez Serraj and Speaker of the eastern-based parliament Aguila Saleh. The EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said the mutual gesture is a "constructive first step forward" that shows the determination of the Libyan leaders to overcome the stalemate and creates hope for ending the longstanding conflict.

* The Democratic-led US House of Representatives on Saturday passed a bill to provide the cash-strapped US Postal Service (USPS) with US$25 billion. The legislative move was aimed at preventing the agency from making any reforms which could slow delivery of mail-in ballots for the presidential election in November. The bill passed largely along party lines and was not expected to pass the Republican-led Senate. The White House had previously issued a veto threat.

* Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Mariano Grossi will travel to Tehran to meet with high-level Iranian authorities next Monday, IAEA said Saturday in a statement. The visit will be the Director General's first to Iran since he took office last December, the statement said. During his visit, Grossi will address the cooperation of Iran with the IAEA, and in particular Iran's provision of access to the agency's inspectors to requested locations, it said.

* Ireland reported more than 100 daily COVID-19 cases for the fourth time in eight days on Saturday after the health service was notified of 156 new infections and two additional deaths. Ireland significantly tightened its nationwide coronavirus restrictions on Tuesday to try to rein in the new spike, which began in late July after cases had fallen to a daily average of around 20 for much of the previous two months.

* Turkey expects its energy imports to fall significantly following a major Black Sea natural gas find and more discoveries could be made in another area now being evaluated, Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said on Saturday. President Tayyip Erdogan announced the discovery of a 320 billion cubic metre (11.3 trillion cubic feet) gasfield on Friday that could come on stream as soon as 2023 and said Turkey was determined to become a net energy exporter.

* The head of Israel's coronavirus task force has asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to ban an annual pilgrimage in which Hasidic Jews visit the central Ukrainian town of Uman over concerns the site may become a virus hotspot. Tens of thousands of Hasidic Jews descend on Uman every Jewish New Year to visit the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, who revived the Hasidic movement and died in 1810. This year, Jewish New Year celebrations run from Sept. 18-20.

* Afghanistan's President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani on Saturday met with NATO's Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan Stefano Pontecorvo and discussed issues including the peace process in Afghanistan, the Presidential Palace said.

* Turkey confirmed 1,309 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, raising the total diagnosed number to 257,032, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said. Meanwhile, 22 people died in the past 24 hours, taking the death toll to 6,102, he tweeted. Turkish health professionals conducted 93,007 tests in the past 24 hours, bringing the overall number of tests to 6,247,164, Koca noted. A total of 801 patients recovered in the last 24 hours, raising the total recoveries to 236,370 in Turkey since the outbreak, the minister said.

* Egypt registered on Saturday 89 new COVID-19 cases, the lowest since April 4, increasing the total infections in the country to 97,237, said the Health Ministry. It is the first day for Egypt's COVID-19 daily infections to fall below 100, after they started to surpass 100 on April 5. In addition, Egypt recorded 12 COVID-19 fatalities, taking the death toll to 5,243, while 800 patients were cured and discharged from hospitals, bringing the total recoveries to 65,118, Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed said in a statement.