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Global COVID-19 cases stabilize as deaths drop

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After a 5-week drop, global COVID-19 cases stabilized last week, though deaths continued to decline, the World Health Organization (WHO) said today in its weekly update on the pandemic.Cases were down in all but one of the six world regions, with the biggest drop in African countries (-35%).

Cases were up 3% in the Western Pacific and down only 1% in Europe.Of more than 3.2 million new cases reported last week, the five countries reporting the most were Japan, the United States, South Korea, Russia, and China.

In the previous week, officials reported 3.1 million new COVID cases.Meanwhile, deaths declined 17% from the previous week, with countries reporting more than 9,800 fatalities to the WHO.The WHO has urged caution in interpreting COVID patterns, given decreases in testing and fewer SARS-CoV-2 sequences submitted for analysis.Diversifying Omicron subvariantsIn its latest update on variants, the WHO said the Omicron variant continues to dominate and become more diversified.

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Japan to support Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring negotiations
COLOMBO (News 1st) – Japan, one of Sri Lanka's main creditors, will back the South Asian nation as it seeks to restructure about $30 billion of its foreign debt and find a way out of a crippling economic crisis, Tokyo's envoy to the country said on Friday.Reaching an agreement with creditors is key to Sri Lanka securing a $2.9 billion bailout package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF)."Japan stands by Sri Lanka in support of the debt restructuring negotiation process so that Sri Lanka can reach the final agreement with the IMF," Ambassador Hideaki Mizukoshi said in an interview.Japan holds around $3.5 billion of Sri Lanka's total bilateral debt of about $10 billion, amounting to 4.4% of the island's GDP, according to government and IMF data.Japan is also a major trading partner."Japan intends to play a constructive role with other creditor countries, including China and India," Mizukoshi said.Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis in decades, with severely depleted foreign exchange reserves leading to prolonged shortages of essentials, including fuel and food.The financial turmoil is the result of economic mismanagement and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that upended Sri Lanka's lucrative tourism industry.Although Japan will support the debt negotiation process, Mizukoshi said that talks on large infrastructure projects will only be resumed after Sri Lanka's economy recovers."In the future, when this economic crisis is over and the economic conditions are in good shape, we can restart that kind of discussion," he said.Sri Lanka suspended a $1.5 billion Japanese-funded light rail project for the commercial capital Colombo in 2020, citing financial problems.Regional rival China has built ports,
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