(Reuters) – North Korea confirmed its first COVID-19 outbreak on Thursday, calling it the “gravest national emergency” and ordering a national lockdown, with state media reporting an Omicron variant had been detected in Pyongyang.
DEATHS AND INFECTIONS
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* Face masks will not have to be worn in airports and on flights in Europe from May 16, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said.
The United States has now recorded more than 1 million COVID-19 deaths, according to a Reuters tally, crossing a once-unthinkable milestone about two years after the first cases upended everyday life and quickly transformed it.
* Shanghai authorities combed the city for its last COVID-19 cases in the hope of clearing the way for an exit from a painful six-week lockdown, while Beijing curbed taxi services to keep a lid on its smaller outbreak.
* Known in Chinese as “juweihui”, residential committees – comprised volunteers who receive a daily stipend – have gone into overdrive during the pandemic, helping authorities conduct mass testing, delivering food to people in need and helping to enforce draconian lockdown measures.
* Financial leaders from Japan, China and South Korea warned of risks to Asia’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and committed themselves to backing market stability and sound fiscal policy.
AFRICA AND MIDDLE EAST
* South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases reported 10,017 new COVID-19 cases, the first day since January the institute has reported more than 10,000 new infections.
* Moderna Inc has made all necessary submissions required by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration for emergency use authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine in adolescents and children, it said.
* Britain’s economy unexpectedly shrank 0.1% in March after a slump in car sales due to ongoing supply-chain difficulties, marking a weak end to the first quarter of a year when the risk of recession is looming.
* China will not hesitate to introduce new policies to prop up growth, a senior Communist Party official said, as the economy feels the pinch of protracted COVID-19 lockdowns.
* Japan’s current account surplus widened in March, finance ministry data showed, easing some concerns about the country’s balance of payments as hefty gains in investment incomes more than offset surging fuel costs.
* British house prices rose in April at the fastest rate since June 2021 as demand again outstripped the number of homes for sale but surveyors trimmed their expectations for future price rises as inflation pressures intensify.
* The Bank of Japan is dropping hints the recent rise in inflation may prove longer-lasting and driven by solid demand, a sign global price pressures are prodding even the world’s most dovish central bank to think about a more neutral policy stance.
* China’s refined zinc output at 52 major smelters rose in April from the previous month, state-backed research house Antaike said, as COVID-related transportation disruptions eased and new capacity started up.
* Taiwan’s central bank is still moving in towards tightening monetary policy, although it may revise down its economic growth forecast for this year due to the Ukraine war and rising cases of COVID-19 at home, governor Yang Chin-long said.
(Compiled by Sherry Jacob-Phillips; Editing by Arun Koyyur)