People relax near life-size sculptures of a herd of Asian elephants in Green Park, London.
People relax near life-size sculptures of a herd of Asian elephants in Green Park, London.
—AFP

Seoul

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned about possible food shortages and called for his people to brace for extended Covid-19 restrictions as he opened a major political conference to discuss national efforts to salvage a broken economy.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency also said on Wednesday Kim called for discussions on how the North should deal with the "current international situation," though it did not mention any specific comments from Kim about the US or South Korea.

North Korea has so far ignored the allies' calls to resume nuclear negotiations that have stalled for two years following the collapse of Kim's ambitious summitry with former President Donald Trump, which derailed over disagreements in exchanging relief from crippling US-led sanctions with denuclearisation steps by the North.

Meanwhile, North’s economy has decayed further am­id pandemic border clos­u­res, which choked off trade with China, while devastating typhoons and floods last summer decimated crops.

In another development, the health of Kim has long been a source of morbid fascination in rival South Korea, which sits in the shadow of Kim’s 1.2-million-strong army and his growing arsenal of nuclear-armed missiles. Has he gained even more weight? Is he struggling for breath after relatively short walks? What about that cane? Why did he miss that important state anniversary?

Now, the 37-year-old faces fresh speculation in the South about his health again. But this time around, it’s because he’s noticeably slimmer.

UK PM: Doesn’t look like C-19 leaked from Chinese lab

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said it doesn't look like that Covid-19 originated from a lab in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. "At the moment the advice we've had is that it doesn't look like this particular disease of a zoonotic origin came from a lab," Johnson said in his closing press conference at the Group of Seven (G7) summit in Britain's southwestern resort of Carbis Bay, a seaside resort and village in Cornwall. "I do think there's a problem with zoonotic diseases and this is clearly something we need to focus on," he said. Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Britain's "best information" remained that Covid-19 "jumped" from animals to humans, Xinhua reported.

‘Moscow strain’

Scientists at Russia’s Gamaleya National Center claim to have identified a new variant of the coronavirus, dubbed "Moscow" strain as cases surge across the country. Scientists that designed the Sputnik V vaccine are studying the jab's effectiveness against the new strain, Gamaleya Center head Alexander Gintsburg was quoted as saying to the state-run RIA Novosti news agency.

Dashboard

-- European Commission raises 20b Euro for Covid recovery

-- UK expands vax drive to cover over-21s

-- 2 vaccines for young children show promise in early trials: Study

-- Bhutan lifts lockdown at Thimphu after a boy reported -ve along with possible contacts.

--NY lifts restrictions, planning celebrations

-- Slovenia ends state of pandemic

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