KEY COVID NOS. WORLDWIDE
Pos / Country / New Daily cases / Total Deaths / Daily Deaths / Active Cases / Deaths/1M Pop.
World 29,72,234 / 55,29,180 / 7,491 / 4,88,46,879 / 709.3
1 USA 7,12,950 / 8,66,455 / 2,093 / 2,05,61,393 / 2,594
2 France 3,61,719 / 1,26,305 / 246 / 40,45,100 / 1,928
3 UK 1,29,587 / 1,51,007 / 398 / 36,73,351 / 2,207
4 Spain 1,79,125 / 90,508 / 125 / 24,64,451 / 1,935
5 Italy 1,96,224 / 1,39,872 / 313 / 22,22,060 / 2,319
6 India 2,47,417 / 4,85,035 / 204 / 11,17,531 / 346
7 Argentina 1,31,082 / 1,17,670 / 75 / 8,46,580 / 2,568
8 Australia 1,02,567 / 2,465 / 49 / 8,15,760 / 95
9 Germany 80,542 / 1,15,605 / 331 / 7,59,790 / 1,373
10 Turkey 77,722 / 84,125 / 145 / 6,74,889 / 981
11 Russia 17,946 / 3,18,432 / 745 / 6,25,354 / 2,181
12 Netherlands 32,043 / 21,114 / 8 / 5,37,902 / 1,228
13 Mexico 33,626 / 3,00,574 / 162 / 5,05,689 / 2,294
14 Brazil 88,464 / 6,20,419 / 138 / 4,71,351 / 2,887
15 Switzerland 14,761 / 12,519 / 9 / 4,64,517 / 1,431
16 Ireland 20,909 / 6,035 / 83 / 4,13,823 / 1,202
17 Poland 16,173 / 1,00,938 / 684 / 4,06,038 / 2,672
18 Canada 32,577 / 31,082 / 124 / 3,98,525 / 813
19 Greece 24,245 / 21,637 / 78 / 3,81,529 / 2,092
20 Norway / 1,350 / / 3,70,228 / 246
29 Philippines 32,246 / 52,654 / 144 / 2,08,164 / 471
87 Bangladesh 2,916 / 28,111 / 4 / 21,541 / 168
88 Pakistan 2,074 / 28,987 / 13 / 20,562 / 127
107 Sri Lanka 653 / 15,163 / 14 / 11,043 / 704
BRITISH PM BORIS JOHNSON APOLOGISES IN PARLIAMENT FOR ATTENDING LOCKDOWN PARTY
Boris Johnson is facing demands from Conservatives to resign after he confessed to attending a Downing Street garden drinks party during the UK's first national lockdown.
Amid open speculation about Mr Johnson's political future - and whether he could be forced out of Number 10 by his own party - two Tory MPs described the prime minister's position as "untenable".
The calls for Mr Johnson to quit came after his House of Commons apology about the event failed to quell anger about the Downing Street "bring your own booze" bash on 20 May 2020.
The gathering is understood to have been attended by around 40 people.
At Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday lunchtime, Mr Johnson admitted he went into the Number 10 garden "just after 6pm on 20 May 2020 to thank groups of staff" before going back into his office "25 minutes later".
The prime minister told MPs he had "learned enough" about multiple claims of lockdown-breaching parties in Downing Street "to know there were things we simply did not get right".
And he acknowledged the public "rage" about their sense that COVID rules were "not being properly followed by the people who make the rules".
But Mr Johnson, referring to the 20 May event, said he "believed implicitly that this was a work event".
"With hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside," he added. "I should have found some other way to thank them.
Mr Johnson offered his "heartfelt apologies", but Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called on the prime minister to "do the decent thing and resign".
Sir Keir branded Mr Johnson's defence "so ridiculous that it is actually offensive to the British people" and described the prime minister's actions "a clear breach of the ministerial code".
"The party is over prime minister," Sir Keir told Mr Johnson.
NATO, RUSSIA EYE MORE TALKS DESPITE TENSIONS
Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday that the military organisation and Russia have agreed to try to set up more meetings to ease tensions between them amid deep concern in the West about whether Moscow might order an invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking after chairing a meeting of the Nato-Russia Council, Stoltenberg said both parties had “expressed the need to resume dialogue and to explore a schedule of future meetings.”
He said that the 30 Nato countries want to discuss ways to prevent dangerous military incidents, reduce space and cyber threats, as well as arms control and disarmament, including setting agreed limits on missile deployments.
But Stoltenberg said that any talks about Ukraine wouldn’t be easy.
“There are significant differences between Nato allies and Russia on this issue,” he told reporters, after what he said was “a very serious and direct exchange” with Russian deputy foreign minister Alexander Grushko and deputy defence minister Alexander Fomin.
Stoltenberg underlined that Ukraine has the right to decide its future security arrangements on its own, and that Nato would continue to leave its door open to new members, rejecting a key demand by Russian President Vladimir Putin that the military organisation halt its expansion.
“No one else has anything to say, and of course Russia does not have a veto,” he said.
US deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman also underlined that any European country should have the right to join Nato if it wants to.
US INFLATION REACHES HIGHEST LEVEL IN FOUR DECADES AS CONSUMER PRICES JUMP 7%
Inflation jumped at its fastest pace in nearly 40 years last month, a 7% spike from a year earlier that is increasing household expenses, eating into wage gains and heaping pressure on President Joe Biden and the Federal Reserve to address what has become the biggest threat to the U.S. economy.
Prices rose sharply in 2021 for cars, gas, food and furniture as part of a rapid recovery from the pandemic recession. Vast infusions of government aid and ultra-low interest rates helped spur demand for goods, while vaccinations gave people confidence to dine out and travel.
As Americans ramped up spending, supply chains remained squeezed by shortages of workers and raw materials and this magnified price pressures.
The Labor Department reported Wednesday that a measure of inflation that excludes volatile food and gas prices jumped 5.5% in December, also the highest in decades. Overall inflation rose 0.5% from November, down from 0.8% the previous month.
Price gains could slow further as snags in supply chains ease, but most economists say inflation won’t fall back to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon.
IN A FIRST, EU TO SUSPEND VISA-FREE TRAVEL FOR ‘GOLDEN PASSPORT’ COUNTRY
The European Commission proposed on Wednesday a suspension of a visa-free travel agreement with the Pacific archipelago of Vanuatu because of its scheme offering passports to rich foreigners. If the proposal is backed by EU states, it would be the first time that the EU imposes sanctions on a country for running “golden passport” schemes, which the commission has warned could pose security and money laundering risks. Other countries, including eastern European states, are monitored. “The commission has concluded that Vanuatu’s investor citizenship schemes present serious deficiencies and security failures,” it said in a statement. Under the scheme, foreigners can obtain Vanuatu citizenship and passport in exchange for a minimum investment of $1,30,000. That in turn gives them visa-free access to EU, under a visa waiver deal the country has with the 27-nation bloc. Vanuatu’s embassy in Brussels is yet to comment.
US SANCTIONS N KOREANS, RUSSIAN AFTER MISSILE TESTS
The United States on Wednesday sanctioned six North Koreans, one Russian and an entity it said were responsible for procuring goods for North Korea's weapons programmes, a move that follows a series of North Korean missile launches, including two since last week.
The US Treasury Department said the moves were in line with American efforts to prevent the advancement of North Korea's weapons of mass destructionand ballistic missile programmes "and impede attempts by Pyongyang to proliferate related technologies”. It said it followed six North Korean ballistic missile launches since September, each of which it said violated multiple UN Security Council Resolutions. Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said the moves targeted North Korea's “use of overseas representatives to illegally procure goods for weapons”.
PAKISTAN COURT SENTENCES 4 TO DEATH FOR ROLE IN BLAST OUTSIDE HAFIZ SAEED’S HOUSE
Islamabad: Pakistan’s antiterrorism court on Wednesday sentenced four people to death for the bombing outside 2008 Mumbai attacks mastermind Hafiz Saeed’s house in Lahore last year that killed three and injured 21.
The country’s national security adviser had accused neighbour India of financing, planning and carrying out the June 23 explosion outside Saeed’s house in the Johar Town neighbourhood.
The anti-terrorism court handed the death sentence to Eid Gul of the banned Tahreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, Peter Paul David, Sajjad Shah and Ziaullah on nine counts. Judge Arshad Hussain Bhutta, who presided over the in-camera trial at Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail, sentenced co-convict Ayesha Bibi to five years in jail. The prosecution presented 56 witnesses against the convicts, all of whom denied their role in the blast. According to Punjab’s counter-terrorism department, Eid Gul installed explosives in the car that was used to trigger the blast. The car belonged to David while the other three — Sajjad, Ziaullah and Ayesha — were facilitators.
Saeed, chief of the banned Jamaat-ud-Dawah, is said to be already serving a jail term in terror financing cases. His presence at the Kot Lakhpat jail, however, couldn’t be confirmed.
SAUDI TO BUILD 14,000 KM OF RAILWAY
Saudi Arabia will build 14,000 km of railway across country and is also preparing a new investment law to address the needs of investors, its Investment Minister Khalid al-Falih said on Wednesday.
“New rail that will criss-cross the kingdom and add to the network we already have,” Mr. Falih told a mining forum in Riyadh. He also said his ministry was working on a new investment law that would address the needs of investors.
The law would be enacted this year, “hopefully sooner”, Mr. Falih said.
Saudi Arabia has also become a challenge for Dubai after it announced last year it would give foreign firms until the end of 2023 to set up headquarters in the country or risk losing out on government contracts.
SRI LANKA SEEKS NEW CHINA LOAN
Sri Lanka ruled out an IMF bailout on Wednesday and said it plans to seek another loan from China to address an economic crisis that has led to food and fuel shortages.
Central bank governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal rejected mounting calls from local and international economists to seek an International Monetary Fund bailout and debt restructure.
“The IMF is not a magic wand,” he told a news conference in Colombo. “At this point, the other alternatives are better.”
Mr. Cabraal added that talks with China over a new loan were at an “advanced stage”, and a fresh agreement would service existing debt to Beijing.