World News in Brief: August 24

Monday, 2020-08-24 16:13:00
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Bombing kills 9, wounds dozens in Philippine island of Jolo. (Photo: AFP)
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A bombing in a town on a restive southern Philippines island killed nine people and wounded dozens on Monday (August 24), among them soldiers and civilians, the military said, with Islamist militants suspected of being behind the attack. Two explosions believed to be homemade bombs were triggered within one hour of each other in the main urban centre on the island of Jolo, a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf, a militant group that has pledged allegiance to Islamic State. There was no immediate claim of responsibility and police said an investigation was underway.

* Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said the country's economy could grow this year, state radio reported on Sunday (August 23), despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The world's second-biggest economy grew 3.2% year on year in the second quarter, recovering from a record contraction as coronavirus lockdown measures ended and policymakers stepped up stimulus to combat the shock from the crisis. Li also said the government expects more than 9 million new urban jobs to be created this year.

* The Indonesian island of Bali has postponed a plan to reopen the country's biggest tourism hub to international tourists on Sept. 11, its governor said, due to the rising level of coronavirus cases reported in the Southeast Asian country. Indonesia has reported more than 155,000 coronavirus infections and 6,759 deaths as of Monday, the highest number of fatalities in Southeast Asia. Authorities halted international tourism in early April as the outbreak picked up pace.

* Crews from across the US West, military planes and National Guard troops poured into California on Sunday to join the fight against two dozen major wildfires burning across the state, as officials warned of more dry lightning storms approaching. US President Donald Trump on Saturday declared the fires a major disaster, freeing up federal funds to help residents and businesses harmed by the fires in seven counties pay for temporary housing and repairs.

* Russian authorities may this week announce the resumption of international flights to France, Hungary, Malta, Cyprus, Jordan, Egypt and China's Shanghai, the Izvestia newspaper cited unnamed airport and airline sources as saying on Monday. Russia grounded international commercial flights during the coronavirus lockdown earlier this year and has so far only resumed flights to London, Turkey, Tanzania and Switzerland.

* French authorities will in coming days reciprocate Britain's decision to impose a 14-day quarantine on all arrivals from France, the junior minister for European affairs said on Monday. Britain said on Friday travellers from the United Kingdom to France are 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.

* Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Sunday thanked ally Iran for helping the South American country overcome US sanctions on its oil industry and floated the idea of purchasing missiles from the country. Washington maintains strict sanctions against Iran’s oil industry to try to halt the country’s nuclear program.

* China reported 16 new COVID-19 cases in the mainland for Aug. 23, all of which were imported infections involving travellers from overseas, the country's health authority said on Monday. This compared with 12 new COVID-19 cases reported a day earlier, all imported too, and marked the eighth consecutive day of no locally transmitted cases. The total number of confirmed cases now stands at 84,967, while the death toll remains unchanged at 4,634.

* US President Donald Trump on Sunday hailed FDA authorization of a coronavirus treatment that uses blood plasma from recovered patients, a day after accusing the agency of impeding the rollout of vaccines and therapeutics for political reasons. At least 5,686,377 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the United States, according to a Reuters tally, and more than 176,000 Americans have died.

* India reported 61,408 coronavirus infections in the last 24 hours, taking its total caseload past 3.1 million, data from the federal health ministry showed. India crossed the 3 million cases milestone on Sunday, 17 days after it crossed the 2 million mark. It is the worst-affected country in Asia, and third behind Brazil and the United States globally. The number of deaths in the last 24 hours was 836, taking the total to 57,542.

* Russia reported 4,744 new coronavirus cases on Monday, pushing its confirmed infection tally to 961,493, the fourth largest in the world. Authorities said 65 people had died over the past 24 hours, pushing the official death toll to 16,448.

* Australia's second most populous state of Victoria on Monday reported 15 deaths from the new coronavirus in the last 24 hours and 116 cases, its lowest daily rise in new infections in seven weeks. Victoria saw a surge in infections during the past several weeks in Melbourne, the state's capital and largest city, but cases have been trending downward in recent days helped by strict lockdown measures. The state reported 17 deaths and 208 new cases on Sunday.

* New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday extended a coronavirus lockdown in the country's largest city until the end of the week and introduced mandatory mask wearing on public transport across the nation. Ardern said the four-day extension in the city of Auckland was critical to enable the country to step down its scale of emergency restrictions - and remain at less restrictive levels. New Zealand, which has a population of 5 million, has so far recorded just over 1,300 COVID-19 cases, including 22 deaths.

* The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 711 to 233,575, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Monday. The reported death toll rose by three to 9,272, the tally showed.

* The United Kingdom recorded 1,041 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, down from 1,288 on Saturday, government figures showed. Six people died after testing positive for the coronavirus within the previous 28 days, compared with 18 deaths announced on Saturday.

* The French health ministry on Sunday reported 4,897 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, marking the highest daily level since the end of a two-month lockdown in May to combat the pandemic. The ministry said the total coronavirus deaths in the country had risen by one in the past 24 hours to 30,513.

* Republic of Korea's capital on Monday ordered masks to be worn in both indoor and outdoor public places for the first time, as it battles a surge in coronavirus cases centred in the densely populated metropolitan area. The Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 266 new cases as of midnight on Sunday, down from 397 a day earlier but another in more than a week of triple-digit daily increases. Overall, the ROK has reported 17,665 coronavirus cases and 309 deaths.

* Hurricane Marco and Tropical Storm Laura tore through the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico on Sunday, forcing thousands of coastal residents in Louisiana and Cuba to flee, and flooding roads in Haiti's capital, with damage across the region expected to worsen this week. US President Donald Trump issued a disaster declaration on Sunday for Louisiana. He had previously issued a similar declaration for Puerto Rico.

* British foreign minister Dominic Raab will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas this week to press for renewed dialogue between their governments to pursue a negotiated two-state solution.

* US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is to visit Sudan in the coming days, Sudanese and US officials said on Sunday. Sudan has been normalising relations with the United States since the overthrow of former leader Omar al-Bashir in April 2019 but is still seeking removal from a list of countries the US considers as state sponsors of terrorism. Pompeo is also due to visit Israel, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates between Aug. 23-28. His trip follows an accord between Israel and the UAE this month to forge full relations.

* Moroccan Prime Minister Saad Dine El Otmani on Sunday rejected any normalisation of relations with Israel. Morocco’s official position has been in support of the two-state solution, with East Jerusalem as capital of a Palestinian state.