World News in Brief: February 20

Saturday, 2021-02-20 18:01:24
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A border worker registers before receiving a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Auckland, New Zealand, Feb. 20, 2021. (Photo: Xinhua)
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World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Friday called for global cooperation and solidarity to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. Tedros made the call during a special edition of this year's Munich Security Conference, which is held online due to the pandemic.

* The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday called for strengthening multilateralism and making it more inclusive as global challenges are "getting bigger and more complex" whereas the responses worldwide remain "fragmented and insufficient."

* Leaders from the Group of Seven industrialized nations have pledged full support for Japan to host a "safe and secure" Olympic Games this summer. The postponed 2020 Olympic Games has been rescheduled for July 23-August 8, 2021.

* Severe flooding across several areas in the Indonesian capital forced more than a thousand people to flee their homes on Saturday, with the country’s meteorology agency warning the conditions were set to continue for the next week.

* Russian president's special envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov on Friday held talks with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa on the peace process in Afghanistan. Kabulov arrived in Islamabad on Friday on a day-long visit for talks on Pakistan's role in the peace process.

* The European Union has contributed a further EUR500 million (US$606.3 million) to the WHO-led COVAX programme for supplying vaccines to developing nations, the European Commission said.

* US President Joe Biden said on Friday in a video message to attendees at the Munich Security Conference, which was held virtually this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, that the United States is returning to the transatlantic partnership and will address global challenges like climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.

* The Chinese mainland reported no new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases on Friday, the National Health Commission said Saturday. The commission said it received reports of eight new imported COVID-19 cases on Friday. The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on the mainland reached 89,824 by Friday, including 454 patients still receiving treatment, five of whom were in severe conditions.

* Brazil registered 51,050 new COVID-19 infections and 1,308 deaths from the disease in the past 24 hours, raising the national counts to 10,081,676 and 244,765 respectively, the Health Ministry said Friday. Brazil, which has the world's second-largest COVID-19 death toll after the United States, has seen a daily average of more than 1,000 deaths in the past month.

* The Philippines' health ministry on Saturday reported 239 new coronavirus deaths, the second-highest daily increase in casualties since the pandemic started, and 2,240 infections. The previous daily high death toll was 259 deaths reported on Sept. 14.

* Germany wants to set up a special task force to help boost investment in vaccine production and build up reserve capacity for the next pandemic, Health Minister Jens Spahn said.

* Pfizer and BioNTech submitted new temperature data to the US health regulator which could allow their vaccine to be stored in pharmacy freezers rather than in ultra-cold storage facilities.

* The Biden administration will pledge US$4 billion to the COVAX vaccination program for poorer countries in hopes of prying loose bigger donations from other governments, US officials said.

* Indian drugmaker Dr. Reddy's Laboratories said it has begun the process of filing for emergency use authorization of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine in India.

* The Czech Republic dropped plans to open all retail shops from next week due to a surge in cases.

* Spain has given a full two-shot course of vaccines to almost all its elderly nursing-home residents, the FED care-home association said.

* Johnson & Johnson has submitted data to the World Health Organization for emergency use listing of its vaccine, which would allow for wider access to the one-dose shot.

* Brazil intends to buy 30 million doses of China's Sinovac vaccine to be produced locally and delivered between October and December.

* The African Union's vaccine task team said Russia had offered it 300 million doses of its Sputnik V vaccine along with a financing package for countries wanting to secure the shots.

* Pfizer's vaccine greatly reduces virus transmission, two Israeli studies have found, shedding light on one of the biggest questions of the global effort to quash the pandemic.

* The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 9,164 to 2,378,883, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Saturday. The reported death toll rose by 490 to 67,696, the tally showed.

* The vaccination campaign against COVID-19 infection in Argentina, which began in January with health workers, has now moved on to senior citizens.

* Iran believes US sanctions will soon be lifted despite continuing “diplomatic wrangling” over reviving the nuclear deal, a government spokesman said on Saturday, signalling Tehran's desire to end the impasse while not offering a new position.

* Poland's Health Minister Adam Niedzielski has not ruled out imposing restrictions at the country's borders with Slovakia and the Czech Republic due to their rising number of COVID-19 cases.

* Saudi Arabia will invest more than US$20 billion in its domestic military industry over the next decade as part of aggressive plans to boost local military spending, the head of the kingdom's military industry regulator said on Saturday.

* Ghana is expecting a first delivery of just over 350,000 AstraZeneca vaccine shots by the end of next week.