World News in Brief: December 30

Wednesday, 2020-12-30 16:06:45
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A health worker conducts a COVID-19 rapid antigen test for a vendor at a urban park in Colombo, capital of Sri Lanka, on Dec. 29, 2020. Sri Lanka is presently facing a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and has recorded 41,603 positive COVID-19 patients and 194 deaths caused by the infection. (Photo: Xinhua)
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Singapore began vaccinating healthcare workers with Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, kicking off one of Asia's first inoculation programmes against a pandemic that has killed more than 1.7 million people globally.

* Indonesia has signed an agreement with two drugmakers AstraZeneca and Novavax, for 100 million doses of vaccines, the country's foreign minister said on Wednesday. Speaking alongside the foreign minister, Indonesia's new health minister, Budi Gunadi Sadikin, said the two vaccines would give the Southeast Asian nation more options.

* Thailand confirmed 250 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, the majority of which were locally transmitted, the public health ministry said. The new cases include nine imported from abroad, the ministry said. The 250 infections are among the largest number of confirmed daily cases since a big outbreak found nearly two weeks ago that was the country's largest yet. Thailand has confirmed a total of 6,690 coronavirus cases and 61 deaths since its first case in late January.

* Hundreds of thousands of doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine are ready to be rolled out in Britain from Monday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said after the shot was approved by regulators.

* Russia on Wednesday reported 26,513 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, including 5,105 in Moscow, pushing the national tally to 3,131,550. Authorities said 599 people had died overnight, taking the official death toll to 56,426.

* The ban on flights from Britain to Norway will be extended until 1600 GMT on Jan. 2 because of ongoing concerns over a mutated strain of the coronavirus, the Norwegian health ministry said late on Tuesday. Following the lead of other European nations, Norway on Dec. 21 halted travel from Britain after news that the new virus strain was rapidly spreading.

* India has extended until Jan. 7 its suspension of flights with Britain, the civil aviation minister said, as the South Asian nation reported 20 cases of a new infectious strain of coronavirus first detected in the United Kingdom.

* Argentina on Wednesday became the first major country in Latin America to legalize abortion when the Senate voted by 38 in favor to 29 against with one abstention to approve a bill allowing the procedure through the 14th week of pregnancy, bucking the traditionally strong influence of the Catholic Church in the region.

* The Czech Republic has allowed squeezing an extra dose from COVID-19 vaccine vials supplied by Pfizer and BioNTech, taking advantage of an extra reserve amount put into the vials by the maker, the Health Ministry said.

* Germany recorded more than 1,000 coronavirus-related deaths in one day for the first time on Wednesday, days after it started vaccinating people and as an extension of a lockdown looms. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country rose by 22,459 to 1,687,185, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed. The reported death toll increased by 1,129 to 32,107.

* Mexico's health ministry on Tuesday registered 12,099 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and 990 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 1,401,529 cases and 123,845 deaths.

* Ankara and Washington have started talks to form a joint working group regarding Turkey's purchase of Russian S-400 missile defence systems and the US sanctions stemming from it, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday.

* The Czech Republic reported a record high 16,329 daily cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday. The central European country of 10.7 million has been one of the worst hit, with its total number of detected cases reaching 701,622 with 11,429 deaths.