World News in Brief: January 16

Saturday, 2021-01-16 16:24:40
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A medical worker receives a dose of China's Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine at the Sabiha Uzun Maternal Child Health Center in Ankara, Turkey on Jan. 15, 2021. More than 600,000 health workers in Turkey have received their first doses of COVID-19 shots developed by China's Sinovac during the first two days of the country's vaccination program, Turkish Health Ministry's data showed on Friday. (Photo: Xinhua)
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The global coronavirus death toll surpassed 2 million, as nations worldwide try to procure multiple vaccines and detect new COVID-19 variants.

* The World Health Organization (WHO) refrained from advising proof of COVID-19 vaccination or immunity as a condition for international travel.

* The first modest batches of vaccines are expected to go out under the COVAX scheme for poorer countries in the first quarter of this year, the top WHO scientist said.

* Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa met in Lisbon on Friday with the College of European Commissioners led by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to discuss the program and priorities of the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU).

* China reported 130 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for Jan. 15, compared to 135 cases a day earlier, the health commission said on Saturday. Of the new infections, 115 were local infections, according to a statement by the National Health Commission.

* Thailand on Saturday confirmed 230 new cases of coronavirus infection, mostly domestic, and one more fatality, according to the Center for the COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).

* The Department of Health (DOH) of the Philippines on Saturday reported 2,058 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number in the country to 498,691. The death toll climbed to 9,884 after eight more patients died from the viral disease, the DOH said. It added 406 more patients recovered, raising the total number of recoveries to 460,133.

* Malaysia is taking legal action at the global trade watchdog against the European Union and member states France and Lithuania for restricting palm oil-based biofuels, the government said.

* Russia on Saturday reported 24,092 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, including 4,674 in Moscow, taking the national tally to 3,544,623, the world's fourth largest. Authorities also confirmed 590 deaths in the last 24 hours, pushing the official death toll to 65,085.

* Britain is tightening border controls to block new variants of COVID-19.

* Russia will fully reopen schools from next week as the national case tally passed the 3.5 million mark.

* Republic of Korea decided on Saturday to extend its tightened social-distancing rules for two more weeks until the end of January amid a continued COVID-19 resurgence. The Seoul metropolitan area, which covers Seoul, its surrounding Gyeonggi province and the western port city of Incheon, will be placed under the second-highest Level 2.5 social-distancing guidelines until Jan. 31.

* Italy passed a positive milestone on Friday, with 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine having been administered just 19 days after the country launched its nationwide vaccination program. The development was praised by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and President Sergio Mattarella and was a top story on Italy's major news sites.

* The largest vaccine center in the United States was launched at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles County on Friday as the metropolitan area is about to hit the latest grim milestone of 1 million total cases this weekend.

* Greece will loosen some lockdown restrictions, officials said, while France's cumulative death toll neared 70,000.

* Catalonia postponed a parliamentary election scheduled for Feb. 14 until May 30 as cases surged.

* Nepal granted approval for AstraZeneca's COVISHIELD vaccine, following a meeting with neighbouring India, a major manufacturer of the shot.

* The UK variant of the coronavirus could become the dominant variant in the United States by March, the US CDC warned.

* Millions of vaccine doses secured by the African Union will be allocated according to countries' population size, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said.

* The European Commission is working on a vaccine certificate, dubbed "Vaxproof", that could help restore cross-border travel, EU officials said.

* Canada said Pfizer's decision to temporarily cut shipments of some COVID-19 vaccines was unfortunate but should not hit its inoculation programme.

* AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine could win Swiss regulatory approval as early as this month, the NZZ newspaper reported on Saturday, citing two unnamed sources.

* The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 18,678 to 2,019,636, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Saturday. The reported death toll rose by 980 to 45,974, the tally showed.

* Australia recorded one locally transmitted coronavirus case overnight, health officials said on Saturday, as states began to relax travel bans on signs an outbreak in the northern state of Queensland has been contained.

* Mexico reported 21,366 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,106 more fatalities on Friday, according to the Health Ministry, bringing its total to 1,609,735 infections and 139,022 deaths.

* Iraq's oil minister affirmed Iraq's commitment to the OPEC+ reduction decision and the compensation of its overproduction share, he said in a statement on Saturday.

* An earthquake of magnitude 6.4 struck the Tatar Strait in Russia, the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) said on Friday. The quake was at a depth of 585 km (363.5 miles), EMSC said.

* South Africa's mining companies will support the government in the roll-out of vaccines as the nation battles a surge in infections, the industry body said.

* Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky discussed conflict resolution in the east of the country over the telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the President's press service said on Friday.

* Azerbaijan will allow cafes and restaurants to open their doors to customers from Feb. 1 but other coronavirus lockdown restrictions will be extended until April, the government said on Saturday.

* The Lebanese parliament passed a law to pave the way for vaccine deals.