* China and India should firmly follow the right path of mutual trust and cooperation between neighboring major countries, and not go astray with suspicion and distrust nor fall back on a road of negative retrogression, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Thursday. Wang made the remarks in a telephone conversation with Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, stressing that the two sides should maintain the strategic consensuses reached by their leaders.
* As COVID-19 transmission rates seemingly decline across the European Region, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge expressed health concerns over “long-COVID” or “post-COVID” symptoms at a virtual press conference on Thursday.
* Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the situation in Armenia in a telephone conversation with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on Thursday, the Kremlin said.
* The Pentagon confirmed on Thursday that the US military had conducted airstrikes against infrastructure utilized by Iranian-backed militant groups in eastern Syria. The Pentagon called the operation a “proportionate military response” carried out after consultations with coalition partners.
* China approved two more vaccines for public use, raising the number of domestically produced vaccines that can be used in China to four.
* Japan on Friday is preparing to lift the state of emergency over COVID-19 for five prefectures where the situation has improved, although the Greater Tokyo metropolitan area will likely be kept under the emergency period for the time being, according to government sources.
* The Department of Health (DOH) of the Philippines reported on Friday 2,651 new COVID-19 cases, the highest daily increase since Oct. 17 last year, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian country to 571,327.
* Leaders of the European Union (EU) called for an accelerated production and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines late on Thursday as the bloc is struggling with supply shortfalls.
* Brazil surpassed 250,000 COVID-19 deaths, while France and Germany said COVID-19 is here to stay after European Union leaders discussed ways to fight new variants of the virus, step up inoculations and save Europe’s tourism industry from another ruinous summer.
* Europe’s medicines regulator issued new guidance for drug makers that modify their vaccines to protect against variants of the virus to speed up the approval process.
* France will bring in new restrictions for the Moselle area around its common border with Germany, and impose measures including weekend lockdowns in Paris and 19 other regions from the start of March if signs of the coronavirus accelerating persist.
* Australia’s Victoria state will start easing restrictions from Friday night.
* Republic of Korea launched its inoculation campaign, with shots to be administered in some 200 nursing homes.
* US President Joe Biden’s administration plans to launch a campaign to educate Americans about vaccines in anticipation of a period later this year where supply may outstrip demand because of vaccine hesitancy.
* Brazil will purchase 20 million doses of the vaccine made by India’s Bharat Biotech for delivery between March and May.
* Canada’s vaccination campaign is ramping up after earlier supply disruptions and the number of inoculations last week hit a five-week high.
* Pfizer and BioNTech said they are testing a third dose of their vaccine to better understand the immune response against new variants of the virus.
* Mexico’s economy grew quicker than first estimated during the fourth quarter as the country recovered from its sharpest economic contraction in nearly nine decades.
* Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions have fallen to the lowest level since 1995 as coronavirus restrictions limited travel. Data released by the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources on Friday revealed that emissions fell by 4.4 percent in the 12 months to September 2020.
* Security personnel of the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) rescued more than 80 Rohingya refugees who had been onboard a boat drifting in the waters of Andaman Sea for 10 days, and retrieved eight dead bodies.
* Republic of Korea’s quarantine authorities said Friday that it will extend the country’s five-tier social-distancing rules at the third-highest level in the Seoul metropolitan area for two weeks.
* US President Joe Biden said on Thursday that he would work to make US-Saudi relations “as strong and transparent as possible.” Biden made the remarks in the first phone conversation with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud since Biden’s inauguration.
* Germany’s Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure said on Wednesday that more than EUR5 billion (US$6.1 billion) would be invested in the modernization of over 3,000 railway stations across the country.
* Colombian President Ivan Duque announced a decision Thursday night to extend a declared national health emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic by three more months, as the vaccination drive entered its eighth day.
* AstraZeneca boss Pascal Soriot said he hoped to meet the EU’s expectations on the number of vaccines the company can deliver to the bloc in the second quarter.
* The Czech prime minister said people’s movement needed to be “radically” limited over at least the next three weeks.
* Portugal extended until at least mid-March a nationwide lockdown.
* The African Union is backing calls for drugmakers to waive some intellectual property rights on COVID-19 medicines and vaccines.
* Israel has frozen its programme to send vaccines abroad to buy international goodwill, Defence Minister Benny Gantz said, after the initiative came under legal scrutiny.
* Bahrain has approved Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine for emergency use.
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