KEY COVID NOS. WORLDWIDE
Pos / Country / New Daily cases / Total Deaths / Daily Deaths / Active Cases / Deaths/1M Pop.
World 22,25,296 / 56,14,556 / 4,847 / 6,66,59,650 / 720.3
1 USA 1,97,374 / 8,89,197 / 574 / 2,66,71,065 / 2,662
2 France 3,01,614 / 1,28,629 / 115 / 63,74,498 / 1,964
3 UK 74,799 / 1,53,862 / 75 / 34,83,054 / 2,248
4 Spain / 91,741 / / 34,40,085 / 1,961
5 Italy 1,38,860 / 1,43,523 / 227 / 27,34,906 / 2,379
6 India 3,06,064 / 4,89,848 / 400 / 22,49,335 / 350
7 Brazil 84,230 / 6,23,145 / 166 / 15,69,370 / 2,899
8 Germany 75,280 / 1,17,354 / 31 / 13,69,791 / 1,394
9 Australia 48,742 / 3,121 / 58 / 10,31,129 / 120
10 Argentina 69,884 / 1,19,168 / 65 / 8,80,266 / 2,600
11 Netherlands 65,325 / 21,211 / 1 / 8,49,108 / 1,234
12 Russia 63,205 / 3,26,112 / 679 / 7,58,457 / 2,233
13 Mexico 51,368 / 3,03,085 / 364 / 6,81,414 / 2,313
14 Belgium / 28,780 / / 6,70,782 / 2,467
15 Switzerland / 12,675 / / 6,45,048 / 1,448
16 Turkey 65,503 / 85,969 / 185 / 6,23,024 / 1,003
17 Poland 34,088 / 1,03,844 / 25 / 5,66,569 / 2,749
18 Norway 12,646 / 1,414 / / 5,32,230 / 258
19 Sweden / 15,639 / / 5,05,536 / 1,534
20 Portugal 45,569 / 19,569 / 30 / 4,89,789 / 1,928
28 Philippines 29,828 / 53,472 / 67 / 2,73,580 / 478
50 Bangladesh 10,906 / 28,223 / 14 / 1,00,052 / 169
61 Pakistan 7,586 / 29,097 / 20 / 70,263 / 128
113 Sri Lanka 838 / 15,299 / 15 / 10,473 / 710
MOSCOW MAY INSTALL PROXIES IN KIEV: U.K.
Britain on Saturday alleged that it had information that Moscow was “looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kiev” as fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine grow.
Tensions have soared in recent weeks as tens of thousands of Russian troops mass on Ukraine’s border, along with an arsenal of tanks, fighting vehicles, artillery and missiles.
London said it had seen evidence that several former Ukrainian politicians had maintained links with Russian intelligence services, and that former MP Yevgen Murayev was being considered as a potential leader.
Some of those in contact with Russian intelligence officers were “currently involved in the planning for an attack on Ukraine”, the Foreign Office said in a statement, though did not release details of the evidence. A U.S. official called the alleged plot “deeply concerning”.
Moscow dismissed the claims as “disinformation”, and urged London to “stop spreading nonsense.”
Mr. Murayev, the man named by London, lost his seat in the Ukrainian parliament when his party failed to win 5% of the vote in 2019 elections.
He is considered to be an owner of Ukrainian TV station Nash, which regulators have been seeking to shut down since last year, accusing it of airing pro-Russian propaganda.
UK LAWMAKER CLAIMS SHE WAS FIRED OVER HER MUSLIM FAITH
A former minister in Britain’s Conservative government says she was told her Muslim faith was a reason she was fired, a claim that has deepened the rifts roiling Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s governing party.
Former transport minister Nusrat Ghani told the Sunday Times that when she was demoted in 2020, a government whip said her “Muslimness” was “making colleagues uncomfortable”.
She said she was told there were concerns “that I wasn’t loyal to the party as I didn’t do enough to defend the party against Islamophobia allegations”.
“It was very clear to me that the whips and No 10 (Downing St) were holding me to a higher threshold of loyalty than others because of my background and faith,” Ghani said.
Chief whip Mark Spencer said he was the person Ghani was talking about, but strongly denied her allegation.
TALIBAN, AFGHAN CIVIL SOCIETY MEMBERS BEGIN OSLO TALKS
The first Taliban delegation to visit Europe since returning to power in Afghanistan began talks on Sunday in Oslo with Afghan civil society members focused on human rights, ahead of highly-anticipated meetings with Western officials.
Headed by Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, the delegation is to dedicate the first day of their three-day visit to talks with women activists and journalists, among others.
The discussions, which are being facilitated by Norway and are to focus on human rights and the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, are taking place behind closed doors.
No country has yet recognised the Taliban government, and Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt stressed that the talks would “not represent a legitimisation or recognition of the Taliban”.
A handful of demonstrators protested outside the Norwegian foreign ministry on Saturday.
On Monday, the Taliban will meet with representatives of the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Italy and the European Union, while Tuesday will be dedicated to bilateral talks with Norwegian officials.
CHINA SENDS 39 WARPLANES INTO TAIWAN DEFENCE ZONE, LARGEST INCURSION IN MONTHS
China sent 39 warplanes – mostly fighter jets – into Taiwan's air defence zone on Sunday, the island's government said, in the largest daily incursion since October.
Taiwan lives under the constant threat of invasion by China, which sees the self-ruled, democratic island as part of its territory to eventually be reclaimed, by force if necessary.
The final quarter of 2021 saw a massive spike of incursions from China into Taiwan's air defence identification zone (ADIZ), with the biggest single day coming on October 4, when 56 Chinese warplanes entered the zone.
Taiwan's defence ministry said in a statement late Sunday it scrambled its own aircraft to broadcast warnings and deployed missiles to track 39 Chinese jets that entered the ADIZ.
The incursions included 24 J-16 fighters -- which experts say are among China's favourite jets for testing Taiwan's air defences -- 10 J-10 fighters and one nuclear-capable H-6 bomber.
BEIJING TO TEST 2 MN AHEAD OF OLYMPICS
China’s capital, Beijing, will test more than two million residents as it deals with a new cluster of COVID-19 cases just two weeks before it hosts the Winter Olympics, city officials said on Sunday.
Beijing’s Fengtai district, the centre of the latest outbreak, reported nine new cases on Sunday — a small number in most places but a break from normalcy in a city where a strict “zero-COVID” strategy has been in place — with the total number over the weekend nearing two dozen.
Xu Hejian, a spokesperson for the Beijing government, said all of Fengtai’s two million residents would be tested in coming days.
Under China’s “Zero-COVID” approach, the country still maintains tight restrictions on international travel, and carries out mass testing and quarantining of all close contacts in centralised facilities until cases are brought to zero. The approach has helped China avoid a major second wave and maintain normalcy at home for much of the past year, although it has come at the cost of continued international isolation.
Beijing is particularly on edge ahead of the Winter Olympics, which President Xi Jinping will open on February 4.
Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Pakistan’s Imran Khan are among foreign leaders expected to attend.
OMICRON CASES APPEAR TO PEAK IN US, BUT TOLL RISING
New coronavirus cases have started to fall in the US, signalling that the Omicron-fuelled spike that has infected tens of millions of Americans, packed hospitals and shattered records has finally begun to relent.
More and more states have passed a peak in new cases in recent days, as glimmers of progress have spread from a handful of eastern cities to much of the country. Through Friday, the US was averaging about 7,20,000 new cases a day, down from about 8,07,000 last week. New Covid hospital admissions have levelled off.
However, the threat has by no means passed. The US continues to identify far more infections a day than in any prior surge, and some states in the west and south and Great Plains are seeing increases. Many hospitals are full. And deaths continue to mount, with over 2,100 announced most days.
In New York, cases are falling sharply even as deaths continue to increase, with mo- re fatalities being announced each day than at any point since the first months of the pandemic. In Illinois and Maryland, hospitalisations and cases have started to decline. But cases continue to grow in North Dakota and in Alabama.
WHO: ‘EUROPE COULD BE HEADED FOR ENDGAME’
The Omicron variant has moved the COVID-19 pandemic into a new phase and could bring it to an end in Europe, the WHO Europe director said on Sunday.
“It’s plausible that the region is moving towards a kind of pandemic endgame,” Hans Kluge told AFP in an interview, adding that Omicron could infect 60% of Europeans by March.
Once the current surge of Omicron currently sweeping across Europe subsides, “there will be for quite some weeks and months a global immunity.”
“So we anticipate that there will be a period of quiet before COVID-19 may come back towards the end of the year, but not necessarily the pandemic coming back,” Mr. Kluge said.
“There is a lot of talk about endemic but endemic means ... that it is possible to predict what’s going to happen. This virus has surprised (us) more than once so we have to be very careful”, Mr. Kluge said.
NZ ADDS NEW COVID RESTRICTIONS, PM ARDERN POSTPONES WEDDING
New Zealand PM Jacinda Arden has cancelled her wedding as the nation imposes new restrictions to slow the community
spread of the Omicron variant, she said on Sunday. New Zealand will impose mask rules and limit gathering from midnight on Sunday after a cluster of nine Omicron cases showed community spread from the North to South islands after a wedding. Indoor hospitality settings such as bars and restaurants and events like weddings will be capped at 100 people. The limit is lowered to 25 people if venues are not using vaccine passes, Arden said. “My wedding will not be going ahead,” she told reporters. “I am no different to, dare I say it, thousands of other New Zealanders who have had much more devastating impacts felt by the pandemic...”
S. KOREA SAYS IT HAS PAID IRAN’S UN DUES
Using Iranian bank funds freed from American sanctions, South Korea has paid Iran’s $18 million in delinquent dues owed to the United Nations, Seoul said on Sunday. The step was apparently approved by Washington to restore Tehran’s suspended voting rights at the world body.
The South Korean Foreign Ministry said Seoul paid the sum using Iranian assets frozen in the country after consulting with the United States Treasury.
PERU DECLARES ENVIRONMENTAL EMERGENCY FOLLOWING OIL SPILL
Peru declared an environmental emergency Saturday to battle an oil spill caused by freak waves from a volcanic eruption in the South Pacific.
The stunningly powerful eruption on last Saturday of an undersea volcano near Tonga unleashed tsunami waves around the Pacific and as far away as the United States.
In Peru, the oil spill near Lima has fouled beaches, killed birds and harmed the fishing and tourism industries.
With its 90-day decree, the government said it plans “sustainable management” of 21 beaches tarred by 6,000 barrels of oil that spilled from a tanker ship unloading at a refinery last Saturday.
One aim of the decree is to better organise the various agencies and teams working in the aftermath of the disaster, the Environment Ministry said.
Foreign Trade and Tourism Minister Roberto Sanchez estimated on Saturday that economic losses total more than $50 million, all sectors combined.
The government is demanding payment of damages from the Spanish energy giant Repsol which owns the refinery.
UAE BANS USE OF DRONES FOR A MONTH AFTER ATTACKS
The United Arab Emirates has banned the use of drones for one month, days after Yemen’s Houthi rebels launched a deadly drone and missile attack on oil storage facilities in Abu Dhabi.
“The Ministry of Interior is currently stopping all flying operations for owners, practitioners and enthusiasts of drones, including drones and light sports aircraft,” the official WAM news agency reported late on Saturday.
Those who need to fly drones for work must ask the authorities for the “necessary exceptions and permits”, it added.