World News in Brief: March 26

Thursday, 2020-03-26 20:43:28
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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres launched a 2-billion-U.S.-dollar Humanitarian Response Plan on Wednesday (March 25) aimed at fighting the coronavirus in the poorest and most vulnerable countries.

* Singapore announced here on Thursday (March 26) that it would allocate SGD48.4 billion (US$33.79 billion) to support businesses, workers and families in response to the unprecedented crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

* The Indonesian government plans to issue bonds to help pare down the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak on the business sector, a senior official said on Thursday. The debt papers, the so-called "recovery bonds", will be issued in rupiah and will be sold to the central bank (Bank Indonesia), exporters and importers, Secretary to the Coordinating Ministry of Economy Susiwijono Moergiarso said.

* The Republic of Korea has unveiled KRW100 trillion (about US$80 billion) worth of fiscal stimulus package and unprecedented monetary policy steps to help stabilize volatile financial markets and minimize the economic fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak across the globe.

* The U.S. Senate approved a long-waited 2-trillion-dollar relief package on Wednesday night, an attempt to blunt the economic fallout of COVID-19, as some analysts expect the country is facing a recession. The upper chamber passed the bill in a 96-0 vote, well above the 60-vote threshold. The package needs to be approved by the House of Representatives, before being sent to President Donald Trump's desk for his signature.

* The United States reported more than 69,000 COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday night, ranking third worldwide, behind China and Italy, according to a data tracking tool developed by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The death toll has exceeded 1,000.

* Canada's House of Commons earlier on Wednesday passed an emergency bill for a package of CAD82 billion (about US$56 billion) to help Canadians and businesses deal with the COVID-19 crisis. As of Tuesday night, Canada has reported 2,792 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 26 deaths.

* Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Germany increased by 4,954 within one day to 36,508, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) announced on Thursday. The number of deaths from the new coronavirus increased from 149 to 198, according to RKI, the federal government agency and research institute responsible for disease control and prevention.

* The number of deaths from the coronavirus exceeded 4,000 in Spain on Thursday, according to the data published by the Spanish Ministry of Health, Consumer Affairs and Social Services. The death toll increased by 655 over Wednesday's 3,434 to 4,089.

* The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus infection in Austria exceeded 6,000 on Thursday with 42 deaths reported, according to local health authorities.

* Russia will ban nearly all international flights from midnight Friday and recommend new restrictions, as the number of COVID-19 cases in the country rose to 840 on Thursday.

* The coronavirus pandemic has claimed 7,503 lives in Italy, while the cumulative number of confirmed cases reached 74,386, Italian authorities said on Wednesday.

* Declaring a war against "an invisible enemy," French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday announced an army operation "Resilience" to back the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and support the population. "We are at war and faced with the peak of the epidemic which is before us, I decided to launch the operation Resilience," Macron said on the sidelines of a visit to a military field hospital in Mulhouse, eastern France, the worst-hit region.

* The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is launching a global education coalition to support students worldwide affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN agency announced in a statement Thursday.

* Seeing a very sharp decline in global trade, Roberto Azevedo, director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO), on Wednesday said a global solution is needed to address the global challenge brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

*The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) decided on Thursday to extend its existing shutdown till April 14 amid a countrywide lockdown beginning Wednesday. On Tuesday night, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared the 21-day countrywide lockdown in the wake of the COVID-19 gripping the country.

* Health professionals of eight SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) member states held a video conference on Thursday to share experiences and information on COVID-19 emergency medical responses. The SAARC groups Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

* The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) on Thursday welcomed and supported an appeal from the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres for immediate global ceasefire to fight the COVID-19 outbreak. All sides of war should give up war and focus on fight against the epidemic and protect the life of the entire Afghan citizens, the AIHRC office tweeted.

* Brazilian state governors on Wednesday called on the federal government to adopt minimum income for citizens amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Several states have established quarantine and isolation measures. Many people who have informal jobs are unable to work from home and thus lost all their incomes.

* Countries in Latin America on Wednesday stepped up measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic as infection rates continued to climb. In Cuba, authorities suspended public transportation in the country's 15 provinces, including bus lines, trains and flights, and also grounded private transport services in multiple regions.

* Colombia, where 470 cases of COVID-19 have been reported, launched a nationwide lockdown through April 13. In Argentina, more than 2,000 people have been arrested for violating the requirements of quarantine since a countrywide lockdown took effect on Monday, officials said.

* Germany has set up a new research network to link university hospitals to fight COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, Minister of Education and Research Anja Karliczek announced on Thursday. A total of EUR150 million (US$164 million) were made available to finance the establishment of the network -- EUR100 million this year and an additional EUR50 million next year, according to Karliczek.

* A Russian Su-27 fighter crashed in the Black Sea on Wednesday, the Russian Defense Ministry reported, citing preliminary data. The search for the pilot is complicated by difficult weather conditions, it added.

* To alleviate economic pressures caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Polish government announced an economic aid package worth PLN212 billion (US$50.5 billion) on Wednesday, while the number of confirmed cases in the country has reached 1,031. The Polish Health Ministry announced Wednesday afternoon that so far 14 people have died from the disease in the country.

* Greece's COVID-19 fatalities have increased to 22 while confirmed infections now amounted to 821, Health Ministry officials announced on Wednesday at a regular press briefing. Currently, 134 patients were hospitalized, including 53 in serious condition, while 36 people have been discharged from hospitals.

* Israel reported three new death cases from the novel coronavirus, bringing the death toll to 8, while total cases reached 2,666, the state's Ministry of Health said on Thursday.

* Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud called on Thursday upon the G20 countries to take responsibility for combating the COVID-19 pandemic. During the opening of the extraordinary G20 leaders' virtual summit, King Salman said that the G20 countries should be responsible for financing research on therapeutics and vaccine against coronavirus.

* The number of COVID-19 cases in Lebanon increased on Thursday by 35 to 368, with six deaths so far, the National News Agency reported. Meanwhile, the government decided to extend the nationwide lockdown for two additional weeks until April 12 in a bid to contain the spread of the virus.

* The death toll of novel coronavirus in Iran rose to 2,234 on Thursday with 157 new fatalities, the ministry of health said. Kianush Jahanpur, head of Public Relations and Information Center of Ministry of Health and Medical Education, also announced 2,389 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of infections to 29,406. Jahanpur said 10,457 have recovered.

* Jordan said on Wednesday that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved a four-year funding program worth about US$1.3 billion for Jordan.