* World Trade Organization members agreed on Monday to hold the next major ministerial meeting in Geneva, Switzerland in late 2021, delegates told Reuters. The biennial conference was originally set to be held in Kazakhstan last year but was delayed due to the pandemic.
* More COVID-19 cases and deaths were reported in Asia-Pacific on Monday, as India recorded 15,510 new infections, taking the total to 11,112,241. According to the official data, the death toll in India mounted to 157,157 with 106 more deaths.
* The Philippines’ Department of Health (DOH) reported 2,037 new cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian country to 578,381. The death toll climbed to 12,322 after four more patients died from the viral disease, the DOH said.
* Bangladesh reported 585 new cases and eight more deaths, bringing the tally to 546,801 and the death toll to 8,416, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) said.
* Republic of Korea reported 355 more cases, raising the total number of infections to 90,029. Of the new cases, 92 were Seoul residents and 156 were people residing in Gyeonggi province. Seventeen cases were imported, lifting the combined figure to 7,063.
* The COVID-19 cases in Indonesia rose by 6,680 within one day to 1,341,314, with the death toll adding by 159 to 36,325, the Health Ministry said on Monday. According to the ministry, 9,212 more people were discharged from hospitals, bringing the total number of recovered patients to 1,151,915.
* Americans should be able to receive Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine within the next 24 to 48 hours, its chief executive said on Monday after US regulators approved the vaccine, making it the country’s third available one for the novel coronavirus.
* Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he will discuss COVID-19 vaccines and immigration policy when he speaks with his US counterpart Joe Biden later on Monday.
* The European Commission will present a proposal in March on creating an EU-wide digital COVID-19 vaccination passport that may allow Europeans to travel more freely over the peak summer holiday period. Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced the coming legislative proposal in a speech to German conservative lawmakers on Monday, providing a few more details in subsequent tweets.
* The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on the African continent reached 3,891,047 as of Sunday evening, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. According to the continental disease control and prevention agency’s COVID-19 dashboard, the death toll related to the pandemic stood at 103,519 so far. A total of 3,463,677 people infected with COVID-19 have recovered across the continent, it disclosed.
* Brazil reported 34,027 new COVID-19 cases and 721 related deaths on Sunday, taking the national tally of confirmed cases to 10,551,259, and death toll to 254,942, the Ministry of Health said.
* The Argentine government on Sunday ordered that the Social, Preventive and Mandatory Distancing measures, in place to control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, will be extended until March 12.
* The Finnish government declared a state of emergency on Monday due to rising COVID-19 infections, a step that would allow the Nordic country to shutter restaurants and to impose other measures to blunt the pandemic.
*The Czech Republic tightened lockdown measures on Monday, beefing up police presence to restrict movement throughout the country as the government battles the world’s worst surge in COVID-19 infections.
* The first United Arab Emirates ambassador to Israel arrived there on Monday pledging to build up new bilateral relations and officials said he would scout for an embassy location in the Tel Aviv area.
* The White House said on Sunday it was disappointed that Tehran had rejected an offer to hold informal talks with European countries and the United States over the Iran nuclear issue.
* Turkey’s gross domestic product (GDP) expanded 1.8 percent in 2020 despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the country’s statistical authority announced on Monday. The Turkish economy ended 2020 on a high note, growing by 5.9 percent in the last quarter and 1.8 percent in the year as a whole, the Turkish Statistical Institute said.
* Global tourism industry anticipates a dynamic comeback in the second half of this year with worldwide expanding vaccinations against COVID-19, according to attendees of a recent tourism fair in Turkey’s western province of Izmir.
* France registered 19,952 new coronavirus infection cases and 122 related deaths in the past 24 hours, according to figures released by the Public Health Agency on Sunday. The cumulative number of coronavirus cases in France now stands at 3,755,968, and the total number of fatalities at 86,454 since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country.
* Russia successfully launched its first “Arktika-M” satellite on Sunday to monitor the Arctic’s climate and environment, the Russian state space corporation Roscosmos said in a press release.
* Israel’s natural gas and oil revenues totaled ILS1.09 billion (about US$330 million) in 2020, according to an annual report issued on Monday by the country’s Ministry of Energy. This is a record high figure and an increase of 29.4 percent compared to oil and natural gas revenues of US$255 million in 2019.
* Iraqi oil exports rose to 2.96 million barrels per day (bpd) in February from 2.868 million bpd the previous month, the Oil Ministry said on Monday.
* Ivory Coast launched the world’s first COVID-19 inoculation drive on Monday with doses imported from the COVAX sharing facility, a milestone in the race to extend vaccine access to poorer countries.
* Nigeria launched on online registration portal for COVID-19 vaccinations, its primary healthcare agency said on Monday, the day before the first doses are expected to arrive for its 200 million people.