World News in Brief: June 3

Thursday, 2021-06-03 15:38:23
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Photo taken on June 2, 2021 at Franjo Tudjman Airport of Zagreb, Croatia shows a digital COVID-19 certificate form on a cell phone. Croatia on Tuesday started issuing European Union (EU) digital COVID-19 certificates that should allow cross-border travel within the 27-member bloc. (Photo: Xinhua)
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Indonesia has cancelled the haj pilgrimage for people in the world's largest Muslim-majority nation for a second year in a row due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, the religious affairs minister said on Thursday.

* Normal discussions between China and the United States on the trade and economic fronts have resumed and both sides will start to pragmatically solve some concrete issues for producers and consumers, China's commerce ministry said on Thursday.

* Cuba expects its domestic COVID-19 vaccines show high efficacy after the final stage of clinical trials, the country's biopharmaceutical authorities told a press conference Wednesday. On Wednesday, Cuba registered 1,191 COVID-19 cases and 12 more deaths related to the virus, with the totals standing at 144,514 and 977 respectively.

* The Russian Federation Council, or the upper house of parliament, passed a bill on Wednesday to withdraw from the arms-control Treaty on Open Skies. The decision was made in response to the US pullout from the pact in November 2020, head of the chamber's International Affairs Committee Grigory Karasin said in a statement.

* Thailand's House of Representatives on Wednesday approved in principle a THAB3.1 trillion (about US$99.7 billion) budget bill for 2022 fiscal year.

* Israel's opposition leader moved closer to unseating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, announcing an agreement with a coalition of diverse political allies to form a new government. But the fragile alliance, which would command a thin majority in parliament, was expected to be sworn in only in about 10-12 days, leaving slight room for Netanyahu, Israel's longest-serving leader, to try to turn lawmakers against it.

* The 24th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) kicked off in Russia's second largest city here on Wednesday, during which participants will seek cooperation amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

* The European Commission on Wednesday unveiled a new plan to make the Schengen area, the largest free travel area in the world, a stronger and more resilient zone.

* The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea is almost complete with just 100 kilometres (62 miles) left to build, TASS news agency quoted deputy prime minister Alexander Novak as saying on Thursday. Once complete, the pipeline will allow Russia to ship more gas to Western Europe bypassing Ukraine.

* Countries and private donors pledged nearly US$2.4 billion on Wednesday to the COVAX vaccine-sharing plan.

* The central bank of Mexico (Banxico) on Wednesday upgraded its economic growth forecast for 2021 from 4.8 percent to 6 percent, buoyed in part by the ongoing vaccination drive against COVID-19, which is expected to boost domestic consumption.

* Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins on Wednesday announced a new, reduced government coalition comprised of four existing partners, leaving KPV LV party out. Latvia's new government coalition is now made up of the New Conservative Party, the alliance For Development/For, the National Alliance and the prime minister's New Unity party.

* Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday that the main issues between Tehran and Washington in the ongoing nuclear talks in Vienna have been settled, official IRNA news agency reported.

* More than 700 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been administered across China as of Wednesday, the National Health Commission said Thursday.

* Brazil on Wednesday reported 2,507 more deaths from COVID-19, taking the nationwide tally to 467,706, the Ministry of Health said. A total of 95,601 new infections were detected, raising the caseload to 16,720,081, the ministry said.

* India's COVID-19 tally rose to 28,441,986 on Thursday with 134,154 new cases recorded in the past 24 hours, said the federal health ministry. Besides, 2,887 deaths were reported since Wednesday morning, taking the death toll to 337,989.

* European Union governments agreed to add Japan to their small list of countries from which they will allow non-essential travel, while holding off until at least mid-June for British tourists.

* It is too risky to lift France's restrictions more quickly than planned, since some regions are showing a big jump in cases, a French government spokesman said.

* Australia's second-most populous state reported its lowest rise in new cases in more than a week on Thursday, a day after a snap lockdown in Melbourne was extended for another week.

* The novel coronavirus poses no threats to blood supply in the United States, while studies showed that high vitamin D levels do not protect against COVID-19.

* China's Stemirna Therapeutics has raised nearly US$200 million for clinical trials and production of its vaccine candidate.

* Australian auto sales have boasted their best May on record as cashed-up consumers splash out on big-ticket items.

* Britain's services sector recorded the biggest jump in activity in 24 years last month, after pubs and restaurants were allowed to resume serving customers indoors following months of lockdown, according to a closely watched business survey.

* Bulgaria plans to provide about 150,000 COVID-19 vaccines to its Balkan neighbours, Health Minister Stoicho Katsarov said on Thursday.

* Australia's Education Minister Alan Tudge has instructed university leaders to bring students back to campus as soon as possible. Universities Australia revealed in February that the sector lost AUD1.8 billion (US$1.39 billion) in revenue in 2020 and cut 17,000 jobs after universities were denied access to the federal government's JobKeeper scheme.

* Germany will lift its vaccination prioritization scheme on June 7, making all citizens older than 12 years eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, Minister of Health Jens Spahn announced on Wednesday.

* The Portuguese government announced Wednesday a decision to move the country to the final phase of "de-confinement" to ease some COVID-19 restrictions.

* Argentina on Wednesday registered 587 more deaths from COVID-19 in 24 hours, raising the pandemic death toll to 79,320, the Health Ministry said. In the same period, tests detected 35,017 new cases of infection, pushing the total caseload to 3,852,156, since the first case was reported in March 2020.

* Israel will begin vaccinating teenagers aged between 12 and 15 against coronavirus next week, the ministry of health said in a statement on Wednesday. The vaccination campaign in Israel began on Dec. 20, 2020, with the first phase targeting medical staff, people aged over 65, and chronic patients. Since then, the age of eligibility has been gradually lowered, and people aged 16 and above are currently receiving the jab.

* Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso on Wednesday signed an executive decree to reopen schools, which were closed more than a year ago due to COVID-19.