While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, Nov 17

A health worker collects a swab sample for a Covid-19 test from a woman in Havana, Cuba, on Nov 15, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

World should not be complacent after Covid-19 vaccine news: WHO

The World Health Organisation welcomed Moderna reporting on Monday that its experimental vaccine showed 94.5 per cent efficacy but said that "many questions" remained and it was no time for complacency.

Only very limited amounts of any vaccine will be available in the first half of 2021 for people other than priority health workers, WHO officials said.

"While we continue to receive encouraging news about Covid-19 vaccines and remain cautiously optimistic about the potential for new tools to start to arrive in coming months, right now we are extremely concerned by the surge in cases we are seeing in some countries, particularly in Europe and the Americas," WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news briefing.

It marked his return to the Geneva agency from quarantine after being exposed to coronavirus some 17 days ago. Tedros said he had no symptoms and had seen no need for a test.


Biden says containing Covid-19 pandemic is vital to economic recovery

US President-elect Joe Biden Monday said containing the coronavirus pandemic is key to the nation's economic recovery, calling for cooperation between business and government in his first remarks on the economy since being elected.

Biden met with the chief executives of General Motors and Microsoft, as well as key labour leaders, as he begins to outline how to contain the coronavirus pandemic and revive the economy during his administration.

"We're ready to come together. The unity was outstanding," Biden said of the meeting in Wilmington, Delaware. "It was really encouraging, quite frankly, to get people, business and labour, agreeing on the way forward."


Washington, Beijing must find areas of cooperation or risk sliding into conflict: Henry Kissinger

The United States and China must find some basis for cooperation, or risk sliding into a catastrophe "comparable to World War I", former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger said at a global forum on Monday, delivering a stark warning on the state of ties between the two superpowers.

"I'm not saying that we and China will live with a consciousness of harmony. I am saying that there will always be stresses and tensions. The question is, 'Is there a direction in which we can cooperate?'" said Dr Kissinger.

Speaking at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum, which is being held virtually this year, he was among some former senior US government officials who laid out how they thought president-elect Joe Biden should tackle US-China ties when he assumes office in January next year.


Trump poised to order troop cuts from Afghanistan and Iraq

Donald Trump is expected to issue a formal order drawing down US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq to 2,500 in each country by Jan 15, a US defence official said, as the president works to deliver on his longtime pledge to exit from "endless wars" in the Middle East.

US Central Command has received an informal warning order, according to the official. The expected order, reported earlier Monday by CNN, would reduce troops from about 4,500 in Afghanistan and from about 3,000 in Iraq before Trump leaves office.

Trump's deadline would come five days before President-elect Joe Biden takes office.


S&P 500, Dow close at all-time highs on reignited vaccine hopes

The S&P 500 and Dow Jones industrial average notched record closing highs on Monday as news of another promising coronavirus vaccine fanned hopes of eradicating Covid-19, while spiking infections and new shutdowns threatened to hobble a recovery from the pandemic recession.

All three major US stock indexes advanced and with its new closing record, the blue-chip Dow is the last of the three to reclaim levels reached in February, before lockdowns sent the markets into free-fall.

The Russell 2000 also hit an all-time closing high.


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