World News in Brief: January 15

Friday, 2021-01-15 15:43:28
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People wait to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at a health services center in Rehovot, central Israel, on Jan. 14, 2021. Israel's health ministry reported 10,933 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, bringing the total number in the country to 528,204. (Photo: Xinhua)
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A World Health Organization-led team investigating the origins of COVID-19 are to begin virtual meetings with their Chinese hosts from a hotel in China's Wuhan, where the pandemic first emerged, on Friday.

* A powerful earthquake killed at least 35 people and injured hundreds on Indonesia's island of Sulawesi on Friday, trapping several under rubble and unleashing dozens of aftershocks as authorities warned of more quakes that could trigger a tsunami.

* China reported the highest number of daily COVID-19 cases in more than 10 months due to a severe outbreak in the northeast that has put more than 28 million people under lockdown.

* US President-elect Joe Biden outlined a US$1.9 trillion stimulus package proposal, as mayors of some three-dozen US cities asked the incoming administration to send vaccine shipments directly to them, saying local officials were best positioned to ramp up lagging inoculations.

* Russia's COVID-19 case tally passed the 3.5 million mark on Friday as authorities confirmed 24,715 new infections in the last 24 hours, including 5,534 in Moscow. Officials said 555 died overnight, taking the official death toll to 64,495 since the pandemic began.

* Indonesia recorded its biggest daily increase in coronavirus cases on Friday with 12,818 new infections, taking the total to 882,418, data from its COVID-19 taskforce showed. It also reported 238 new deaths overnight, taking the total to 25,484.

* The Philippines on Friday extended by two weeks a ban on travellers from more than 30 territories and countries where a more transmissible COVID-19 variant has been detected, with the restriction also now covering Filipinos who want to come home.

* Mexico reported 16,468 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 999 more fatalities on Thursday, according to the health ministry, bringing its total to 1,588,369 infections and 137,916 deaths.

* The number of coronavirus infections in Germany rose above 2 million, and the number of deaths reached almost 45,000, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Friday. Germany's coronavirus cases increased by 22,368 to 2,000,958 in a day, according to RKI data on Friday.

* Chancellor Angela Merkel wants "very fast action" to counter the spread of COVID-19 mutations after Germany recorded a record number of deaths from the coronavirus.

* Britain is set to step up coronavirus vaccinations with 500,000 doses a day by next week, the Financial Times reported.

* Russia plans to apply to the European Union next month for approval of its Sputnik V vaccine.

* France will strengthen border controls and bring forward its night curfew by two hours to 6 p.m. for at least a fortnight.

* Australia is on course to record its second straight day of zero local COVID-19 cases, helped by tougher restrictions on public movement and internal borders.

* Japan will temporarily suspend exemptions allowing foreign athletes to train in the country ahead of the Summer Olympics, Kyodo News reported.

* Hospitals in Brazil's northern state of Amazonas ran short of oxygen and made an urgent call for help from the United States on Thursday.

* Caribbean tourism officials are rushing to increase COVID-19 testing capacity after the United States became the latest country to require nearly all arriving passengers to present a negative test within 72 hours of departure.

* Indonesian investigators with the National Transportation Safety Committee have successfully downloaded information from the flight data recorder of the Sriwijaya Air jet that crashed into the sea last week, the agency said on Friday.

* Asian shares edged up near record highs on Friday after US President-elect Joe Biden proposed a stimulus plan to jump-start the world's largest economy.

* Quebec may space out doses of COVID-19 vaccines by as long as 90 days, beyond the recommended 42-day interval as high caseloads threaten to overwhelm its hospitals.

* The Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthis in Yemen said on Friday it had intercepted and destroyed three explosive-laden drones launched by the Iran-aligned Houthi movement towards Saudi Arabia, state television reported.

* The Gambia has recorded its first two cases of the highly infectious coronavirus variant first found in Britain.

* Turkey began administering vaccines developed by China's Sinovac to health workers.