* China’s population continued to grow in 2020, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said Thursday. Specific data will be released in the 7th national population census bulletin, the NBS said in a brief statement on its website.
* India’s total COVID-19 cases passed 18 million after another world record number of daily infections, as gravediggers worked around the clock to bury victims and hundreds more were cremated in makeshift pyres in parks and parking lots.
* Brazil is set to become the second country to pass 400,000 COVID-19 deaths after the United States, and experts warned the daily toll could remain high for several months due to slow vaccinations and loosening restrictions.
* The US economy grew at an annual rate of 6.4 percent in the first quarter of 2021, the US Commerce Department reported Thursday. The increase in first quarter GDP (gross domestic product) reflected the continued economic recovery, reopening of establishments, and continued government response related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
* Global shares extended gains, after the Federal Reserve said it was too early to consider rolling back emergency support for the economy and US President Joe Biden proposed a US$1.8 trillion spending plan.
* EU contracts for COVID-19 vaccines to be delivered in 2022-23 contain clear rules about what would happen if the vaccine makers do not deliver, Germany’s health minister said.
* Ireland will press ahead with plans to reopen all retail stores, personal services and non-residential construction in May, with hotels, restaurants and bars to follow sooner than expected in early June.
* Germany has managed to break the rapid rise in new infections, but it is still too early to sound the all-clear, the head of the Robert Koch Institute said.
* The land border between Portugal and Spain will reopen for all travel on Saturday after more than three months of restrictions and border checks.
* Pakistan purchased 13 million vaccine doses from three Chinese companies, its health minister said, which are expected to arrive in May and June.
* Argentina has frozen the price of medicinal oxygen for 90 days and directed liquid oxygen producers in the country to give priority to the health system as cases spike.
* The US’s New York City aims to “fully reopen” on July 1, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, citing satisfactory progress in its vaccination campaign.
* Developers of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine said they were suing Brazilian regulator Anvisa for defamation, accusing it of having knowingly spread false information without testing their product.
* Total global spending on COVID-19 vaccines is projected to reach US$157 billion by 2025, driven by mass vaccination programs underway and “booster shots” expected every two years, according to a US report.
* Europe’s major energy companies profited from a rise in oil prices to report big increases in first-quarter earnings, putting the worst of the pandemic-driven slump in fuel demand behind them.
* Bangladesh’s drug regulator has authorized the emergency use of China’s Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine.
* The Democratic Republic of Congo started re-deploying hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 vaccines to other African nations, which it says it won’t be able to administer before they expire at the end of June.
* Indonesia’s government has declared the armed criminal group locally known as KKB linked to the Papuan separatists in the Southeast Asian country’s eastern province of Papua as terrorists, a senior minister said on Thursday.
* The International Organization for Migration (IOM) on Wednesday said that 108 illegal migrants have been rescued off the Libyan coast. According to IOM, a total of 6,174 illegal migrants have been rescued off the Libyan coast so far this year, including 426 women and 277 minors.
* Iraqi Oil Minister Ihsan Abdul-Jabbar and his Syrian counterpart Bassam Touma discussed in Baghdad on Thursday the possibility of transporting Egyptian natural gas to Iraq through the Syrian territories.