World News in Brief: January 2

Saturday, 2021-01-02 17:50:03
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People wearing face masks walk on a street in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Jan. 2, 2021. Malaysia on Saturday reported 2,295 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the national total to 117,373. (Photo: Xinhua)
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Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa said on Friday that priorities during his country's presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) would be the "success of the vaccination" against COVID-19 and the "economic and social recovery of Europe".

* Indian Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Saturday that COVID-19 vaccines would be free of cost across the country. The minister appealed to people not to be misguided by rumours regarding the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine.

* About two million doses of vaccine developed by Oxford/AstraZeneca are set to be supplied every week by the middle of January in the United Kingdom, The Times reported.

* The Cuban government on Friday put into effect a monetary overhaul in hopes of improving the country's economic performance amid the pandemic and the tightening of US sanctions against the island.

* The Chinese mainland on Friday reported 22 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases, of which eight were locally transmitted and 14 arrived from outside the mainland, the National Health Commission said Saturday. The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on the mainland reached 87,093 by Friday, including 383 patients still receiving treatment and 4,634 had died as a result of the virus.

* The confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States topped 20 million on Friday as the discovery of a highly contagious new virus strain in the country increases pressure to speed up the vaccination process. The United States reported over 20.1 million cases and more than 347,000 related deaths Friday afternoon, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.

* Brazil reported 24,605 additional confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, and 462 deaths from COVID-19, the health ministry said on Friday. The South American country has now registered 7,700,578 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 195,411, according to ministry data, in the world's third worst outbreak outside the United States and India.

* Russia registered 26,301 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking its national tally to 3,212,637, the country's COVID-19 response center said in a statement here on Saturday. It also reported 447 new deaths, taking the nationwide count to 58,002.

* Twenty eight provinces of Thailand will be put under maximum control as COVID-19 cases continue to rise, health officials announced on Saturday. The total number of confirmed infections in Thailand stands at 7,379 currently, with 4,299 recoveries. A total of 3,016 patents are being treated in hospitals.

* The Department of Health (DOH) of the Philippines on Saturday reported 1,097 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number in the country to 476,916. The death toll climbed to 9,253 after five more patients died from the viral disease, the DOH said. It added 47 more patients recovered, raising the total number of recoveries to 439,942.

* The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 12,690 to 1,755,351, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Saturday. The reported death toll rose by 336 to 33,960, the tally showed.

* Australia's most populous state of New South Wales on Saturday made masks compulsory and imposed new restrictions as its coronavirus cluster expanded by seven, while neighbouring Victoria recorded 10 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian banned dancing and singing at night clubs while restricting numbers at gym classes, weddings, funerals and places of worship.

* Mexico's health ministry reported 11,091 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 700 additional fatalities on Friday, bringing its total to 1,437,185 infections and 126,507 deaths. The real number of infected people and deaths is likely significantly higher than the official count, the health ministry has said.

* Republic of Korea will extend unprecedented social distancing rules in Seoul and neighbouring areas until Jan. 17, a health official said on Saturday, including a ban on gatherings larger than four people. The country reported 824 new cases as of midnight on Friday, down from 1,029 a day before.

* The French health ministry reported 19,348 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours on Friday, slightly less than Thursday's 19,927 and well below Wednesday's more than one-month high of 26,457 but still far from the government's target of less than 5,000 daily additional infections.

* The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Thursday approved US$3.231 billion to fund the world body's regular budget for 2021. The UNGA's body dealing with UN administrative and budgetary matters, the Fifth Committee, discussed and approved the budget Thursday afternoon before the plenary voted in favor of the financial plan.

* Iran has told the United Nations nuclear watchdog it plans to enrich uranium to up to 20% purity, a level it achieved before its 2015 accord, at its Fordow site buried inside a mountain, the agency said on Friday.

* Niger's ruling party candidate Mohamed Bazoum will face former president Mahamane Ousmane in a presidential election runoff in February, according to provisional results of the first round of the contest announced by the electoral commission on Saturday.