World News in Brief: December 23

Wednesday, 2020-12-23 17:12:23
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A woman wearing a Christmas hat and a face mask works in a shop in Sydney, Australia, Dec. 22, 2020. Officials in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) have named over 100 venues across Sydney as potential COVID-19 hotspots, instructing anyone who attended them to self-isolate and get tested. NSW recorded eight locally acquired cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, taking a recent outbreak to 90 infections. (Photo: Xinhua)
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More than 77.9 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 1,716,171 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.

* At least four drugmakers expect their COVID-19 vaccines will be effective against the new fast-spreading virus variant that is raging in Britain, while Americans were warned again not to travel for Christmas as the latest surge in cases overwhelmed hospitals.

* Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that international efforts to reach a peace settlement in Libya should be intensified, the RIA news agency reported.

* The United Kingdom and the European Union have still not clinched a Brexit trade deal to avoid a turbulent split in just eight days time because of serious disagreements about competition and fishing, a British minister said on Wednesday.

* US President Donald Trump threatened to not sign an US$892 billion coronavirus relief bill that includes desperately needed money for individual Americans, saying it should be amended to increase the amount in the stimulus checks.

* Weekly COVID-19 cases rose by the highest amount since the pandemic began, the World Health Organization said, with the Americas accounting for half of them.

* Brazil's Health Ministry expects to have at least 150 million doses of vaccines against COVID-19 available in the first half of 2021, with a third or more coming from a Chinese company despite the president's early scepticism.

* Japan will ban the entry of non-Japanese people from the United Kingdom following the emergence of the new virus strain.

* British drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc told Reuters its COVID-19 vaccine should be effective against the new coronavirus variant, adding that studies were under way to fully probe the impact of the mutation.

* Flag carrier Philippine Airlines said on Wednesday it is suspending flights to and from London from Thursday to the end of February as Britain battles a new coronavirus strain.

* France will reopen its borders to passengers from England, ending a blockade intended to stop the spread of a new coronavirus variant, but which has held up thousands of lorries before Christmas.

* Bulgaria will allow flights from the United Kingdom from 1000 GMT on Wednesday to help Bulgarians wishing to return home, the government said in a statement. The Balkan country closed its air, land and sea borders to travellers from Britain late on Sunday in an attempt to prevent the spread of the new variant of the coronavirus.

* Russia on Wednesday reported 27,250 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, including 5,652 in Moscow, pushing the national tally to 2,933,753. Authorities said 549 people had died overnight, taking the official death toll to 52,461.

* Germany reported a record daily coronavirus death toll of 962 on Wednesday, a week after the start of a hard lockdown that has forced most stores as well as hair salons and other services to close. The total death toll now stands at 27,968, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

* Sweden's government is rushing to put forward a temporary pandemic bill that would give it powers to shut shops, private museums and by law limit the number of people in gatherings, news agency TT reported.

* The US government does not intend to impose COVID-19 screenings for passengers travelling from Britain after the emergence of the new virus variant there, people briefed on the decision said.

* Canada is introducing extra measures to screen people who have spent time in Britain to check for the mutated COVID-19 variant.

* Ireland will shut restaurants, pubs and some shops on Christmas Eve and they may not open again until early March amid "enormous concern" for older people from a sudden surge in COVID-19 cases, the government said.

* The Czech republic reported 10,821 new coronavirus cases early on Wednesday, the first daily tally over 10,000 since Nov. 6, health ministry data showed.

* Peru surpassed 1 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus, as concerns about a potential second wave of infections began to grow in the hard-hit Andean nation.

* Dubai will start inoculating people with the COVID-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech for free from Wednesday.

* Kenya's parliament voted to end tax cuts put in place in April to cushion the economy from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.