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The COVID-19 pandemic could trigger a debt crisis in some countries, so investors must be ready for granting some form of relief that could also include debt cancellation, World Bank President David Malpass was quoted as saying on Sunday.

“It is evident that some countries are unable to repay the debt they have taken on. We must therefore also reduce the debt level. This can be called debt relief or cancellation,” Malpass told Handelsblatt business daily in an interview.

“It is important that the amount of debt is reduced by restructuring,” Malpass added.

He pointed to similar steps in previous financial crises such as in Latin America and the so-called HIPC initiative for highly indebted countries in the 1990s.

Rich countries last month backed an extension of the G20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI), approved in April to help developing nations survive the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen 43 of a potential 73 eligible countries defer $5 billion in “official sector” debt payments.

Amid warnings the pandemic could push 100 million people into extreme poverty, Malpass renewed his call for private banks and investment funds to get involved too.

“These investors are not doing enough and I am disappointed with them. Also, some of the major Chinese lenders did not get enough involved. The effect of the aid measures is therefore less than it could be,” the World Bank head said.

Malpass warned that the pandemic could trigger another debt crisis as some developing countries had already entered a downward spiral of weaker growth and financial trouble.

“The enormous budget deficits and debt payments are overwhelming these economies. In addition, the banks there are getting into difficulties due to bad loans,” Malpass added. (Reuters)


U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday that he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for COVID-19 and would immediately quarantine and begin the “recovery process.”

“We will get through this,” Trump tweeted.

Trump’s positive test follows news that Hope Hicks, a top adviser and trusted aide, had tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Hicks travels regularly with the president on Air Force One and, along with other senior aides, accompanied him to Ohio for the presidential debate on Tuesday and to Minnesota for a campaign event on Wednesday.

Trump, who is tested regularly for the virus that causes COVID-19, has kept up a rigorous travel schedule across the country in recent weeks, holding rallies with thousands of people in the run-up to the Nov. 3 election, despite warnings from public health professionals against having events with large crowds.

Trump has come under sharp criticism for his response to the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 people in the United States alone. The president has touted his management of the crisis. (Reuters)


The GAVI vaccine alliance’s board has approved up to $150 million to help 92 low- and middle-income countries prepare for the delivery of future COVID-19 vaccines, including technical assistance and cold chain equipment, it said on Thursday.

The initial funds will help establish the COVAX facility at an operational level and ensure routine immunisation programmes continue in eligible countries, GAVI said in a statement.

In all, 168 countries have joined the COVAX global vaccine facility, led by GAVI and the World Health Organization (WHO), including 76 wealthy or self-financing countries, it said. COVAX aims to deliver 2 billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021. (Reuters)


India’s coronavirus case tally increased by 86,821 in the last 24 hours to 6.31 million by Thursday morning, data from the health ministry showed, as the country eased more restrictions to combat the economic hit from the pandemic.

Deaths from coronavirus infections rose by 1,181 to 98,678, the ministry said.

The South Asian nation on Wednesday permitted states to open schools and movie theaters. The country’s richest state Maharashtra, home to financial hub Mumbai, said it would also allow bars and restaurants to operate fully.

India reported its worst economic contraction in decades for the quarter to June as the COVID-19 pandemic forced many businesses to close and the country to impose one of the strictest lockdowns to prevent the virus from spreading. (Reuters)


Kuwaiti Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah became the emir of the new ruler of the oil-rich nation on Tuesday night, according to state media reports, occupying the highest position after decades of service in the security service.

Sheikh Nawaf, 83, has served as crown prince since 2006, leaping over the traditional order between the Al Jaber and Al Salam descendants of the royal ruling family.

State television carried a speech by Anas Khalid al-Saleh, the Minister of Home Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister of Kuwait, announcing that Sheikh Nawaf was sworn in hours after the death of Sheikh Sabah, as quoted by The New Arab.

Sheikh Nawaf, like Sheikh Sabah, was born before Kuwait discovered the oil fields that made this small country one of the richest countries in the world. Born June 25, 1937, Sheikh Nawaf became governor of the Hawalli region of Kuwait and later became the country's interior minister, a position he held for nearly a decade.

Sheikh Nawaf served as the Kuwaiti defense minister starting in 1988. He was cast in 1990 when Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and occupied the country for seven months. On February 24, 1991, US and allied forces invaded Kuwait and ended 100 hours later.

America only suffered 148 deaths from fighting during the entire campaign, while more than 20,000 Iraqi soldiers were killed. Sheikh Nawaf served as Minister of Social Affairs and Labor after the war, then as Deputy Chief of the Kuwaiti National Guard and again as Minister of the Interior. He became crown prince under Sheikh Sabah in February 2006.

Shaykh Nawaf is married, has four sons and one daughter. (RRI)


Kuwaiti leader Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah died at the age of 91, the Kuwaiti national news agency Kuna reported on Tuesday.

"With great sorrow, we the people of Kuwait, the Arab nation and the Islamic state, and the friendliest people in the world, mourns the death of His Majesty Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Emir of Kuwait. We belong to Allah and to Allah we will return," Kuna, as quoted by The New Arab said on Wednesday.

Before the announcement of his death, Kuwait stopped all regular programming and broadcast the verses of the Koran, in a rare act which marks the impending announcement of an important death.

The emir is widely regarded as the architect of modern Kuwaiti foreign policy, recently lauded in the Arab world for his anti-normalization and state neutrality on many divisive regional issues. The emir - who has ruled the Gulf state since 2006 - traveled to the US for treatment.

Prior to his departure, Al-Sabah authorized his half-brother Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah to use part of his constitutional powers. (RRI)


World Bank President David Malpass said on Tuesday he is seeking board approval for a $12 billion coronavirus vaccine financing plan to help poor and developing countries secure a sufficient share of vaccine doses when they become available in the coming months.

Malpass told Reuters in an exclusive interview that the initiative, part of $160 billion in coronavirus aid financing pledged by the multilateral lender, is aimed at helping countries procure and distribute vaccines early to healthcare and other essential workers and expand global production. He said the board was expected to consider the plan in early October.

Global competition for early coronavirus vaccine doses is already fierce, months ahead of any approvals, as wealthy countries move to secure supplies.

The U.S. government has pledged over $3 billion to secure hundreds of millions of doses of vaccines under development by Britain's AstraZeneca Plc AZN.L and by U.S. drug giant Pfizer Inc PFE.N and Germany's BioNTech SE 22UAy.F.

Malpass said the World Bank plan aimed to put poor and middle-income countries, where the virus is spreading most rapidly, on the same footing as richer countries by ensuring they have financing to secure supplies and a system for distribution, which will encourage drugmakers to meet their demand.

Without early doses that can bring outbreaks under control, many of these countries risk economic collapse that will push hundreds of millions of people back into poverty.

“Our goal is to alter the course of the pandemic for the low- and middle-income developing countries,” Malpass said. “This is a market signal to the manufacturers that there will be financing available for the developing countries and there will be demand. We will begin asking the manufacturers to begin creating allocations for these countries.”Malpass said the World Bank also was asking wealthy countries that have “over-reserved” more doses than they will ultimately need to release those doses to poorer countries.

He added that he is working to persuade countries that equitable distribution of vaccines “is important to the world and will give a better outcome for the world.”

Separately, Brent McIntosh, U.S. Treasury undersecretary for international affairs, told a Foreign Policy magazine forum on Tuesday that wealthy countries were working on broad vaccine availability.

“There have been intense conversations among various developed countries on ensuring that there are vaccines available in the developing world and those conversations are ongoing at the highest levels,” said McIntosh, who oversees U.S. involvement in the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The World Bank program will disburse grant or loan funding to countries, and will be able to select any vaccine that meets safety criteria, including approval from multiple “highly respected, stringent regulatory agencies,” such as those in the United States, Canada, Japan and several European countries, Malpass said.

The World Bank’s private-sector arm, the International Financing Corp, in July launched a $4 billion financing platform to boost investment in developing country production of vaccines and other critical health products. (Reuters)


More than 1 million people have died of COVID-19 around the world as of Tuesday, according to a Reuters tally, with the pace of fatalities picking up as infections again surge in several countries.

Deaths from coronavirus-related illnesses have doubled from half a million in just three months, led by fatalities in the United States, Brazil, and India.

More than 5,400 people are dying around the world every 24 hours, according to Reuters calculations based on average deaths so far in September.

That equates to around 226 people per hour, or one person every 16 seconds. In the time it takes to watch a 90-minute soccer match, 340 people die on average.

The United States, Brazil, and India account for nearly 45% of all COVID-19 deaths globally, with the Latin American region alone responsible for more than a third of them.

India is the latest epicenter of the pandemic globally, recording the highest daily growth in infections in the world in recent weeks, with an average of about 87,500 new cases each day since the start of September.

On current trends, India will overtake the United States as the country with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases by the end of the year, even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government pushes ahead with easing lockdown measures in a bid to jumpstart the struggling economy.

Despite the surge in cases, India’s death toll of around 95,500 and pace of growth of fatalities remain below those of the United States, Britain and Brazil.

Health experts stress that official data for both deaths and cases globally since the first reported case in China in early January is almost certainly being underreported, especially in countries with limited testing capacity.

The reported global death rate has picked up from three months ago when an average of around 4,700 people was dying COVID-19 linked illness every 24 hours, or one person every 18 seconds.

Infection numbers are rising again in the United States and setting new records in Europe, which accounts for nearly 25% of deaths. The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned of a worrying spread in western Europe just weeks away from the winter influenza season.

The WHO has also warned the pandemic still needs major control interventions amid rising case numbers in Latin America, where many countries have started to resume normal social and public life.

Much of Asia is experiencing a relative lull after emerging from a second wave. In Australia, officials have lifted some reimposed internal travel curbs. (Reuters)


The global death toll from COVID-19 could double to 2 million before a successful vaccine is widely used and could be even higher without concerted action to curb the pandemic, an official at the World Health Organization said on Friday.
“Unless we do it all, (2 million deaths) ... is not only imaginable, but sadly very likely,” Mike Ryan, head of the U.N. agency’s emergencies program, told a briefing on Friday.

The number of deaths about nine months since the novel coronavirus was discovered in China is nearing 1 million.

“We are not out of the woods anywhere, we are not out of the woods in Africa,” said Ryan.

He said young people should not be blamed for a recent increase in infections despite growing concerns that they are driving its spread after restrictions and lockdowns were eased around the world.

“I really hope we don’t get into finger wagging: it’s all because of the youth,” said Ryan. “The last thing a young person needs is an old person pontificating and wagging the finger.”

Rather, indoor gatherings of people of all ages were driving the epidemic, he said.

The WHO is continuing talks with China about its possible involvement in the COVAX financing scheme designed to guarantee fast and equitable access globally to COVID-19 vaccines, a week after the deadline for committing passed.

“We’re in discussions with China about the role they may play as we go forward,” said Bruce Aylward, WHO senior adviser and head of the ACT-Accelerator program to back vaccines, treatments and diagnostics against COVID-19.

He confirmed that Taiwan has signed up to the scheme, even though it is not a WHO member, bringing the total to 159 participants. Some 34 are still deciding.

Talks with China also include discussion of the world’s second-largest economy potentially supplying vaccines to the scheme, he said.

The U.N. agency published on Friday draft criteria for the assessment of emergency use of COVID-19 vaccines to help guide drugmakers as vaccine trials reach advanced stages, said WHO assistant director-general, Mariangela Simao.

The document will be available for public comment until Oct. 8, she said.

Earlier on Friday, a Chinese health official said the WHO had given its support for the country to start administering experimental coronavirus vaccines to people even while clinical trials were still underway. (Reuters)


The G20 leaders summit will be held virtually on Nov. 21-22, Saudi Arabia said on Monday.

The summit will focus on protecting lives and restoring growth by addressing vulnerabilities uncovered during the pandemic and by laying down foundations for a better future, the government said in a statement.

“The G20 has contributed over $21 billion to support the production, distribution, and access to diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines,” the statement said.

It has also injected $11 trillion to safeguard the global economy and launched a debt suspension initiative for least developed countries allowing them to defer $14 billion in debt payments due this year. (Reuters)

The G20 leaders summit will be held virtually on Nov. 21-22, Saudi Arabia said on Monday.

The summit will focus on protecting lives and restoring growth by addressing vulnerabilities uncovered during the pandemic and by laying down foundations for a better future, the government said in a statement.

“The G20 has contributed over $21 billion to support the production, distribution and access to diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines,” the statement said.

It has also injected $11 trillion to safeguard the global economy and launched a debt suspension initiative for least developed countries allowing them to defer $14 billion in debt payments due this year.