World News in Brief: September 24

Thursday, 2020-09-24 15:14:04
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(Illustrative image). IMF official sees coronavirus crisis dampening growth in some countries for years.
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The coronavirus crisis is lasting longer than expected and it will take some countries years to return to growth, the No. 2 official at the International Monetary Fund said.

* Mainland China reported seven new COVID-19 cases on Sept. 23, down from 10 reported a day earlier, the country's national health authority said on Thursday (September 24). The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases to date in mainland China now stands at 85,314, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.

* The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Wednesday (September 23) reported 6,874,982 cases of the new coronavirus, an increase of 49,285 cases from its previous count, and said that the number of deaths had risen by 813 to 200,275.

* Russia on Thursday reported 6,595 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, its highest daily increase since July 12. The authorities said 149 more people had died, bringing the official death toll to 19,948. The new figures pushed Russia's national tally of cases to 1,128,836, the fourth-largest in the world.

* Mexico's confirmed coronavirus caseload rose to 710,049 on Wednesday, according to updated data from the health ministry, along with a reported death toll of 74,949. Authorities reported 4,786 new cases along with 601 deaths on Wednesday, but the true figures are likely significantly higher due to little testing.

* Singapore has announced Wednesday several restriction-ease measures as it has reported low numbers of COVID-19 cases recently, including allowing more people back to workplace. More employees will be allowed to return to the workplace since Sept. 28, although safe management measures must be in place and employers are encouraged to implement measures such as flexible working hours and staggered reporting times, said Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong who also co-chairs the multi-ministry taskforce to fight the virus.

* The Philippines' health ministry on Thursday reported 2,180 new coronavirus infections and 36 additional deaths. In a bulletin, the ministry said total confirmed cases had increased to 296,755, still the highest in Southeast Asia, while deaths had reached 5,127, nearly half of which were recorded in the past 30 days.

* Canada "is at a crossroads" as a second wave emerges in four large provinces, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, adding that, "we're on the brink of a fall that could be much worse than the spring."

* German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier became the country's second cabinet member to enter quarantine, while data showed that confirmed cases increased by 2,143 to 278,070.

* The British government estimates less than 10,000 people a day are contracting COVID-19, health minister Matt Hancock said on Thursday, less than during the pandemic's peak, even as numbers testing positive have risen to similar levels. Britain reported 6,178 new daily cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. Hancock also said the proportion of people getting a so-called false positive test result is below 1%.

* Australia's Victoria state said the number of new daily infections was close to a three-month low, buoying hopes that restrictions will be eased sooner than expected.

* Brussels is close to wrapping up preliminary talks with US vaccine maker Novavax for its potential COVID-19 shot, an EU source involved in the negotiations said, as the bloc ramps up its push in the global race to secure supplies. The move is meant to expand to seven the portfolio of vaccines the 27-country bloc, with a population of 450 million, wants to secure. It would bring doses potentially available to EU countries to more than 2 billion.

* Russia's sovereign wealth fund and its partner Chemrar will supply the COVID-19 drug Avifavir to 17 additional countries, the fund said in a statement on Thursday. Avifavir gained approval from the Russian health ministry in May and is based on Favipiravir, which was developed in Japan and is widely used there as the basis for viral treatments. Clinical trials in Japan and Russia have confirmed those drugs' efficacy, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) said in a statement.

* AstraZeneca is still waiting for the go-ahead from the US drug regulator to restart the clinical trial of its potential COVID-19 vaccine in the United States, Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said on Thursday. The US trial of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine candidate, initially developed by the University of Oxford, remains on hold while regulators investigate an illness in one of the participants, even after a British study and other programmes outside of the United States have resumed. US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said on Wednesday the continued suspension showed the FDA took vaccine safety seriously.

* Finland warned on Thursday the COVID-19 pandemic was expanding again more rapidly in the country, after several months of relative calm, and was heading in an "alarming" direction. By Wednesday, Finland's COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the epidemic totalled at 343 and cases at 9,288.

* US President Donald Trump said he may or may not approve any new, more stringent FDA standards for an emergency authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine.

* Germany added regions in 11 European countries to the list of destinations it classifies as coronavirus risk zones.

* US Federal Reserve policymakers vowed to keep interest rates near zero, while business activity cooled in September, with gains at factories offset by a retreat at services industries.

* Iraqi Oil Minister Ihsan Abdul Jabbar expects to reach an agreement soon with the OPEC+ group over increasing Iraq's crude oil exports, state news agency INA cited him as saying on Thursday. Iraq's total exports averaged 2.6 million barrels per day (bpd) in August, down from 2.763 bpd in July. OPEC+ has been reducing production since January 2017 to help to support prices and reduce global oil stockpiles. It increased the cuts to a record 9.7 million bpd from May to July after demand plunged due to the coronavirus crisis.

* The Czech Republic recorded 2,309 new infections in its third highest daily rise since the coronavirus pandemic began, but the figure was down slightly from 2,392 the previous day, health ministry data showed on Thursday. In the past two weeks, Czech infections have been rising at the second fastest rate in Europe, for a tally of 55,464 cases since the first infections were detected in March.

* Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet decided on Thursday to tighten Israel's coronavirus lockdown after he voiced alarm that a surge in infections was pushing the nation to "the edge of the abyss". Israel went back into lockdown, its second during the pandemic, on Sept. 18. But over the past week, the number of daily new cases has reached nearly 7,000 among a population of 9 million, severely straining the resources of some hospitals.

* The United Arab Emirates reported its highest daily number of infections since the start of the pandemic at 1,083 new cases.