World News in Brief: February 21

Sunday, 2021-02-21 16:12:52
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Containers carrying the first batch of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines are unloaded from a plane at the MASkargo Complex in Sepang, Malaysia.
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Malaysia moved up its COVID-19 inoculation drive by two days as the first batch of vaccines arrived in the Southeast Asian nation on Sunday. Malaysia aims to vaccinate at least 80% of its 32 million people within a year as it pushes to revive an economy that, slammed by coronavirus-related curbs, recorded its worst slump in over two decades in 2020.

* China on Sunday reported seven new COVID-19 cases in the mainland for Feb. 20, compared with eight cases a day earlier, the health authority said. All the new infections were imported cases, the National Health Commission said in a statement. There were no new deaths.

* All adults in Britain will be offered a first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of July, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Saturday ahead of a planned announcement on the cautious reopening of the economy from lockdown.

* Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday, calling the start of the nation's vaccination programme a "massive step" that will enable it to return to normal.

* The Italian Coast Guard said on Saturday it had rescued 45 migrants after their ship capsized 15 miles south of the Italian island of Lampedusa.

* A shipment of 150,000 COVID-19 vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University arrived at Belgrade airport on Sunday, making Serbia the first country in the Western Balkan region to receive supplies of the shot.

* Russia on Sunday reported 12,742 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, including 1,602 in Moscow, taking the national tally to 4,164,726. Authorities also reported another 417 deaths, raising the official toll to 83,293.

* Brazil registered 1,212 additional COVID-19 deaths and 57,472 new confirmed cases of the virus on Saturday, according to data released by the Health Ministry. The South American nation has now recorded 245,977 total coronavirus deaths and 10,139,148 confirmed cases.

* The number of new coronavirus cases in France compared to a week earlier rose for the third day in a row, with the health ministry reporting 22,371 new cases on Saturday, compared to 21,231 last Saturday. The seven-day moving average of new cases increased further by 163 to 19,217, after falling nearly continuously in the first half of the month.

* Italy reported 251 coronavirus-related deaths on Saturday compared with 353 the day before, the health ministry said, while the number of new infections fell to 14,931 from 15,479. Some 306,078 coronavirus tests were carried out, compared with a previous 297,128, the ministry said.

* Republic of Korea will begin administering the first of 117,000 doses of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine on Feb. 27, a day after the country begins its first vaccinations with AstraZeneca's products, the prime minister announced on Sunday.

* The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 7,676 to 2,386,559, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Sunday. The reported death toll rose by 145 to 67,841, the tally showed.

* Mexico's health ministry on Saturday reported 7,785 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the country and 832 more fatalities, bringing its total to 2,038,276 infections and 179,797 deaths.

* Niger votes on Sunday in the second round of a presidential election that is expected to usher in the first democratic transition of power since the West African nation gained independence from France in 1960.

* Iran is studying a European Union proposal for an informal meeting between current members of Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal and the United States, but has yet to respond to it, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said on Saturday.

* Israel reopened swathes of its economy on Sunday in what it called the start of a return to routine enabled by a COVID-19 vaccination drive that has reached almost half the population.

* Sudan's central bank set a new baseline exchange rate of SDG375 to the US$ in sharp devaluation on Sunday, banking sources said.

* Iran closed several crossing points with Iraq on Saturday in an effort to stem the spread of a mutant variant of coronavirus which the Iranian health minister said was entering from the neighbouring country.