World News in Brief: April 15

Thursday, 2021-04-15 20:39:18
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People wearing protective gear walk past a market in Manila, the Philippines, on April 15, 2021. The Philippines' Department of Health (DOH) reported on Thursday 11,429 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian country to 904,285. (Photo: Xinhua)
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A senior Japanese ruling party official said on Thursday that cancelling the Olympics in Tokyo remains an option if the coronavirus crisis becomes too dire, as Japan tackles its fourth wave of infections less than 100 days ahead of the planned start of the Games.

* In the wake of Denmark's decision to cease using the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19, World Health Organization Regional Director for Europe Hans Henri P. Kluge on Thursday reaffirmed that the benefits of using the vaccine "outweigh the risk."

* Johnson & Johnson's vaccine remained in limbo as a US health panel called for more data before making a decision on how and whether to resume use of the one-dose shot, putting off a vote for a week or more.

* The Kremlin said on Thursday it would respond in kind to any new "illegal" new US sanctions on Russia and said any new measures would reduce the chances of a summit between US President Joe Biden and President Vladimir Putin taking place.

* India said its drugs regulator will decide on emergency-use applications for foreign COVID-19 vaccines within three working days from application, as it tries to attract Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna to sell their shots.

* The US economic recovery accelerated to a moderate pace from late February to early April as more consumers, buoyed by increased COVID-19 vaccinations and strong fiscal support, spent more on travel and other goods, the Federal Reserve reported.

* The German economy probably shrank by 1.8% on the quarter in the first three months of this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, leading economic institutes said, as they revised their joint growth forecast for Europe's largest economy.

* The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions against Russia and expelled ten diplomats in response to Moscow's alleged election interference and cyber activities.

* Iran and global powers will resume talks on Thursday to rescue the 2015 nuclear deal in an effort potentially complicated by Tehran's decision to ramp up uranium enrichment and what it called Israeli sabotage at a nuclear site.

* International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva has said she is "confident" that the IMF will distribute a new allocation of Special Drawing Rights (SDR) to member countries by mid-August.

* North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies on Wednesday agreed to pull out all of their armed forces from Afghanistan after the United States announced that all US troops would leave the country by Sept. 11.

* US Secretary of State Antony Blinken paid a surprise visit to Afghanistan's capital Kabul on Thursday, local media reported.

* An advisory body of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) met on Wednesday to discuss next steps on Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine after rare blood clotting cases emerged in six recipients.

* A weekend curfew was imposed in India's capital New Delhi following a steep rise in COVID-19 cases over the past few days, local Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Thursday.

* Brazil's COVID-19 death toll has risen to 361,884 after 3,459 new deaths were reported in the last 24 hours, the Ministry of Health reported on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the country registered 73,513 new cases, bringing the national tally to 13,673,507, the ministry said.

* Argentina's Health Minister Carla Vizzotti on Wednesday urged people to limit their activity to just "essential" tasks, such as going to work or taking children to school, amid a new wave of outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease.

* Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said he will discuss all disagreements between Turkey and Greece in a meeting with his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias in Ankara on Thursday and that it was important for the NATO allies to maintain dialogue.

* Germany would like to use Regeneron's COVID-19 monoclonal antibody cocktail as a treatment for this disease more broadly but needs to finalize some details on reimbursement, Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Thursday.

* Argentina's government will tighten pandemic restrictions in and around the capital Buenos Aires to rein in a sharp spike in COVID-19 cases, including shutting schools and imposing a curfew from 8 p.m. to limit social activity.

* Swiss drugmaker Novartis has signed a deal to make ingredients for Roche's Actemra treatment that is being repurposed for people with COVID-19 associated pneumonia, the company said.

* Moderna met with Nexus Pharmaceuticals to discuss manufacturing the shot at the company's new plant in Wisconsin, which can process and fill 30 million doses a month, sources said.

* German Health Minister Jens Spahn urged the country's 16 federal states on Thursday to impose tougher restrictions quickly to try to slow a third wave of the coronavirus and not to wait until a national law on measures is passed.

* Malaysia's natural rubber production in February increased by 9 percent to 49,840 tonnes from 45,735 tonnes in January, official data showed Thursday. Malaysian Statistics Department said in a statement that on a year on year basis, the production of natural rubber decreased by 0.1 percent.

* Sweden's centre-left government said it would boost spending by SEK45 billion (US$5.31 billion) in its spring budget to fight the ongoing pandemic.

* Ireland is on track to ease restrictions from May 4 to allow the phased reopening of all retail stores and hairdressers and will also develop a plan for further reopenings in June and July, Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said.

* South Africa has agreed to onerous conditions such as non-refundable downpayments to secure vaccines from Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer, its health minister said, describing the terms vaccine manufacturers had demanded as "difficult and sometimes unreasonable".