World News in Brief: February 16

Tuesday, 2021-02-16 17:05:01
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Gloria Alfaro Segovia inoculates COVID-19 vaccine in Santiago, Chile, Feb. 15, 2021. Almost 2 million people have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in Chile, the Health Ministry said on Monday in a statement. (Source: Health Ministry of Chile/Handout via Xinhua)
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Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Monday agreed by consensus to appoint Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former finance minister of Nigeria, as the next director-general, said the WTO in a press release. The decision was made at a special meeting of the WTO's General Council at which the World Bank veteran was formally selected.

* The World Health Organization listed AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, while sources said the EU is in talks with Moderna on buying more vaccines.

* Japan will begin its COVID-19 inoculation drive on Wednesday, starting with 40,000 medical workers, Japan's vaccination programme chief Taro Kono said at a news conference on Tuesday.

* The euro zone is likely to decide between March and May when and how governments would start tapering support to their economies as vaccination campaigns allow the lifting of pandemic lockdowns and economic activity picks up, top euro zone officials said.

* Most G7 economies such as Japan, Britain, the United States and France agree that now is not the time to withdraw fiscal support for their coronavirus-hit economies, Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said.

* US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday discussed bilateral ties and regional issues in a phone conversation, the State Department said in a statement.

* Russia registered 13,233 COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, the lowest daily increase since Oct. 10, the country's COVID-19 response center said Tuesday. The national tally has thus increased to 4,099,323, with 80,979 deaths and 3,624,663 recoveries, the center said.

* Since the coronavirus outbreak, France has reported a total of 82,226 deaths after another 412 people died in the past 24 hours, showed data from health authorities on Monday. To date, France has recorded a total number of 3,469,539 cases, the sixth highest in the world.

* Ongoing COVID-19 measures continue to weigh on the German economy in the first quarter of 2021, according to the monthly economic report published by the Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) on Monday.

* Britain's prime minister said that world powers should clinch a global treaty on pandemics to ensure proper transparency.

* Republic of Korea has arranged to buy vaccines for 23 million more people, a day after authorities decided to scale back initial vaccination plans, citing delays and efficacy concerns.

* Australia's Victoria state is well placed to begin easing out of a snap five-day lockdown on Wednesday, Premier Daniel Andrews said.

* Malaysia will get its first batch of vaccines, produced by Pfizer and BioNTech, on Feb. 21, and kick off its inoculation drive five days after that.

* The Department of Health (DOH) of the Philippines reported on Tuesday 1,391 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian country to 552,246. The death toll climbed to 11,524 after seven more patients died from the viral disease, the DOH said, adding that 45 more patients recovered, raising the total number of recoveries to 511,796.

* Mexico began the task of vaccinating millions of senior citizens, with dozens of Mexicans aged over 60 years waiting in line for hours because of delays in administering shots.

* Britain's drug regulator is auditing manufacturing processes at Serum Institute of India which could pave the way for AstraZeneca's vaccine to be shipped from there to Britain and other countries, sources said.

* The Czech government plans to reopen schools for more students from March 1 with regular testing for infections, which remain at high levels.

* Colombia will begin vaccinations on Wednesday following the arrival of its first vaccines, from Pfizer.

* South Africa has asked the Serum Institute of India to take back the one million vaccine doses the company had sent in early February, the Economic Times reported.

* The Palestinian Authority accused Israel of holding up the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines into Gaza, where Palestinians have yet to receive any doses.

* Up to 2.5 million customers were without power in the US state of Texas Monday morning as the state's power generation capacity is impacted by an ongoing winter storm brought by Arctic blast.

* South African Airways (SAA) has received a further ZAR5 billion (US$346 million) from the Department of Public Enterprises to complete severance payments that form part of its rescue plan, bankruptcy administrators said on Tuesday.

* At least 32 passengers were killed and several others missing Tuesday after a passenger bus carrying them skidded off the road and fell into a canal in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, officials said. Seven people have been rescued.

* The Afghan National Army commandoes have freed 42 people, including two dozen militaries, from a Taliban detention center in the northern province of Baghlan, the country's Defense Ministry confirmed on Tuesday.

* An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.7 jolted 58 km W of Port-Vila, Vanuatu at 0049 GMT on Tuesday, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said. The epicenter, with a depth of 14.0 km, was initially determined to be at 17.75 degrees south latitude and 167.759 degrees east longitude.

* Nigerian government planned to vaccinate approximately 109 million Nigerians that will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination in two years, a senior health official has said.

* The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday expressed concern over the resurgence of Ebola in two African countries.