The latest on the global pandemic
Mexico's health ministry confirmed 1,803 new coronavirus deaths on Thursday, marking a record high since the pandemic began last year, as fatalities continue to tick up in the country with the world's fourth-highest death toll. The previous record was set earlier this week at over 1,500 deaths caused by the fast-spreading respiratory disease. Only the United States, Brazil and India - all much more populous than Mexico - have reported more COVID-19 fatalities.
The dollar was headed for its worst week of the year on Friday, as investors cheered in the Joe Biden administration by buying riskier currencies and refreshed bets that a pandemic recovery could push the greenback lower still. The dollar index has fallen by the same weekly margin, and was steady at 90.075 early in the Asia session. The euro had found some support from the European Central Bank keeping policy steady and accommodative.
Australia's Victoria state records 16 days with no community COVID; nationwide no local cases for 5 days
Australia's second most populous state of Victoria eased social gathering restrictions on Friday after recording 16 days without any new coronavirus infections in the community, doubling the number of people allowed to gather at home to 30. The state, which will host the Australian Open tennis tournament in its capital Melbourne next month, has managed to eliminate the virus following an outbreak and one of the world's strictest lock-downs last year. On Friday, Spain's Paula Badosa became the first player to confirm a positive test for COVID-19 while in quarantine in Melbourne.
Australia's Victoria state records 16 days with no community COVID; nationwide no local cases for five days
Australia's second most populous state of Victoria eased social gathering restrictions on Friday after recording 16 days without any new coronavirus infections in the community, doubling the number of people allowed to gather at home to 30. On Friday, Spain's Paula Badosa became the first player to confirm a positive test for COVID-19 while in quarantine in Melbourne. Australia has fared better than most developed economies in the pandemic through swift border closures, lockdowns, widespread testing and social distancing.
With much of Japan under a state of emergency due to a third wave of COVID-19 infections, organisers of the Tokyo Olympics will mark six months to go on Saturday with little fanfare, no fireworks and amid rapidly dwindling public support. Postponed by a year due to the pandemic, there will be no more delays for the 2020 Games, organisers have stressed, despite a recent Kyodo News survey showing 80% of people in Japan want the event either cancelled or rescheduled. On a two-day visit to Tokyo in November, IOC chief Thomas Bach expressed confidence the Olympic and Paralympic Games would go ahead but the public remains deeply concerned about hosting a gathering of some 15,000 international athletes amid a sharp rise in infections.
Suicides increased in Japan during 2020 after a decade of declines, with the number of women committing suicide surging amid the emotional and financial stress caused by the coronavirus pandemic even as fewer men took their own lives. Suicide has a long history in Japan as a way of avoiding shame or dishonor, and its suicide rate has long topped the Group of Seven nations, but a concerted national effort brought numbers down by roughly 40 percent over 15 years that included ten straight years of decline from 2009. The suicide rate had been trending lower in the first half of 2020, but from July onward the numbers began to rise as the impact of the coronavirus outbreak hit home, activists and researchers say.
- Associated Press
Dr. Anthony Fauci is back. “One of the new things in this administration is, If you don’t know the answer, don’t guess,” Fauci said in one pointed observation during a White House briefing. Fauci’s highly visible schedule on Thursday, the first full day of President Joe Biden’s term, underscored the new administration's confidence in the doctor but also the urgency of the moment.