Friday's world stories

Nov 20, 2020 - Health

Toronto, Peel placed under lockdown as COVID cases soar across Canada

A medical worker walks outside a COVID-19 assessment center in Toronto, Canada. Photo: Zou Zheng/Xinhua via Getty Images

Ontario officials announced new coronavirus lockdown measures for Toronto and Peel Region on Friday, as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged all residents to stay home, saying COVID-19 "cases across the country are spiking massively."

Why it matters: Canadian officials predict that by end of the month, the death toll from COVID-19 could be between 11,870 and 12,120, with the country's total cases between 366,500 and 378,600, Reuters reports. Canada has recorded 315,751 cases and 11,265 deaths since the pandemic began.

Nov 20, 2020 - Health

South Korea urges public to stay home as COVID-19 cases rise

Seoul, South Korea. Photo: Simon Shin/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

South Korea is urging people to stay home and avoid crowds following a recent uptick in coronavirus infections, AP reports.

Why it matters: The country has seen its number of cases increase steadily since it relaxed several coronavirus-related restrictions October. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun on Friday (local time) asked the public to limit end-of-the-year parties, and employers to allow workers work from home.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Nov 20, 2020 - World

Trump's last-minute foreign policy whirlwind

Trump visits Afghanistan in 2019. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

The Trump administration is working quickly to shift U.S. policies and, where possible, bind the incoming Biden administration to them.

Why it matters: All of these steps are being taken without any coordination with Biden's team, which still lacks access to the intelligence and resources typically made available during a transition. In many cases, the Trump administration is trying to proactively thwart Biden's agenda.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Nov 19, 2020 - World

Europe's brutal coronavirus surge begins to ease after restrictions

Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Europe is now recording more coronavirus deaths than during its April peak.

The good news: The rate of new cases across the continent has leveled off, and it's even fallen sharply in several hard-hit countries. After weeks of growing fear, there is cause for optimism.

Nov 19, 2020 - World

New Zealand uses science to avoid coronavirus lockdown

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at an Auckland mall, on the eve of her Labour Party's Oct. 17 election win — a vote of confidence in her handling of the pandemic. She lifted domestic restrictions last month after modeling showed the second Auckland outbreak was elimated. Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images

The World Health Organization praised New Zealand on Thursday for its "unique," targeted modeling technology and rapid COVID-19 genome sequencing that's seen the country avoid a lockdown last week despite having four current community cases.

Why it matters: Coronavirus restrictions are growing across the U.S. and Europe, while NZ neighbor South Australia is under a strict lockdown. Geneticist Mike Bunce told Axios that genomic sequencing was "key" to the NZ government's decision not to reimpose restrictions beyond a mask mandate for some travel, effective Thursday.

Nov 19, 2020 - World

Goods from West Bank settlements to be labeled "Made in Israel," Pompeo says

A red blend named for Pompeo at the winery he visited today in a West Bank settlement. Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty

After visiting a winery in the Jewish settlement of Psagot in the West Bank, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a new policy on Thursday of allowing products from the settlements to be labeled as “made in Israel."

Why it matters: The policy announced by Pompeo is more radical than the Israeli government's policy regarding the settlements. It signals U.S. recognition of de facto Israeli annexation of much of the West Bank and seems to be a violation of the spirit of the “Abraham Accords” and the recent UAE-Israel peace treaty, under which Israel agreed to suspend its annexation plans.

Nov 19, 2020 - Health

Oxford University coronavirus vaccine trials show strong immune response

CSL chief scientific officer Andrew Nash with a small vial to go into the bioreactor to create 30 ml doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Nov. 8 in Melbourne, Australia. Photo: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

A COVID-19 vaccine from Oxford University and AstraZeneca is safe and produces strong immune responses in older people, per preliminary findings of a phase two trial published Thursday in The Lancet.

Why it matters: Coronavirus cases are soaring in the U.S. and across the world. The findings from the study of 560 healthy adults, including 240 people aged over 70, follow Pfizer's announcement Wednesday that its vaccine is 95% effective and Moderna's data released Monday showing its version has a 94.5% vaccination success rate.

Updated Nov 19, 2020 - World

Australia finds evidence of war crimes by elite troops in Afghanistan

Chief of the Australian Defense Force General Angus Campbell delivers the findings from the Inspector-General of the Australian Defense Force Afghanistan Inquiry, in Canberra Thursday morning local time. Photo: Mick Tasikas/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Allegations that elite Australian Defense Force troops unlawfully killed 39 civilians or prisoners in Afghanistan are "credible," said ADF chief Gen. Angus Campbell, announcing findings of a long-awaited report Thursday.

Driving the news: The findings came after a four-year inquiry into alleged war crimes and misconduct by Australia's elite special forces. The report finds most of the people killed in 23 incidents were prisoners and that those who died were "non-combatants or no longer combatants."