US

Forum chair welcomes US re-entry to Paris Agreement

With hours of his taking the oath as the 46th US President, Joe Biden issued an executive order for the US to return to the Paris Agreement.

Forum Chair Kausea Natano, who is Tuvalu's prime minister, said that the US order was a priority was warmly appreciated in the Pacific

Natano said he looked forward to continued and strengthened relationships between the people of the Pacific and the US, especially on the climate crisis facing the 'Blue Pacific'.

US Capitol shut down briefly out of caution over nearby fire

Police say they acted out of an abundance of caution after witnesses reported smoke rising nearby. The fire was several blocks away.

A rehearsal for Mr Biden's inauguration was suspended.

Security is tight, with thousands of National Guard members deployed at the Capitol and around central Washington DC, after five people died on 6 January when a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, home to the US Congress.

An alert circulated earlier to Capitol staff said the complex was on lockdown, with no-one being allowed in or out.

Tonga out of list of countries eligible for US seasonal and guest worker visas

Kaniva News reports the H-2A and H-2B visa programmes allow employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural and non-agricultural jobs, respectively. 

Tonga has already lost the opportunity to participate in the January recruitment for New Zealand’s RSE scheme. 

The New Zealand government wanted all RSE workers repatriated before Tonga could be allocated a new share of the 2000 employees who were expected to arrive in New Zealand this month.

Tonga was the only Pacific nation with RSE workers left in New Zealand. 

All 50 US states on alert for armed protests

National Guard troops have been sent en masse to Washington DC, to deter any repeat of last week's deadly riots.

The FBI has warned of possible armed marches by pro-Trump supporters at all 50 state capitols.

Meanwhile, the Biden team has set out plans to reverse key Trump policies.

In the hours after Mr Biden sets foot in the White House, he will embark on a blitz of executive actions designed to signal a clean break from his predecessor's administration, according to a memo seen by US media.

Among the actions:

US approves Moderna as second Covid-19 vaccine

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorised the US-made jab about a week after approving a Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine which is now being distributed.

The US has agreed to purchase 200 million doses of Moderna, and six million may be ready to ship now.

The country has the world's highest numbers of Covid-19 deaths and cases.

It has recorded at least 311,529 deaths and 17,269,542 infections, according to Johns Hopkins University.

US Covid vaccinations to begin on Monday

The first three million doses of the vaccine would be shipped "across all states" this weekend, said General Gustave Perna, who is overseeing distribution.

The vaccine offers up to 95 percent protection against Covid-19 and was deemed safe by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA said its approval for use was a "significant milestone" in the crisis.

The US agency authorised the emergency use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on Friday, after coming under intense pressure from the Trump administration to do so.

First Americans 'could get vaccine in early December'

Dr Moncef Slaoui told US network CNN the plan was to "ship vaccines to the immunisation sites within 24 hours" of a vaccine being approved.

The comments come amid a surge in coronavirus cases across the country.

The US has recorded more than 12m cases and 255,000 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

These are the highest tolls registered anywhere in the world.

American pharmaceutical company Pfizer and its partner BioNTech submitted an application on Friday for emergency authorisation in the US of their Covid-19 vaccine.

US surpasses 10 million Covid-19 cases amid surging third wave of infections

The grim milestone came on the same day as global coronavirus cases exceeded 50m.

The US has reported about a million cases in the past 10 days, the highest rate of infections since the nation reported its first novel coronavirus case in Washington state 293 days ago.

The country reported a record 131,420 Covid-19 cases on Saturday and has reported over 100,000 infections four times in the past seven days, according to a Reuters tally.

US cases reach record high amid new wave of infections

Citing data from local state health authorities, the Covid Tracking Project reported 83,010 new cases on Friday.

US Surgeon General Jerome Adams has warned that hospital admission numbers are growing, but mortality rates are falling due to better patient care.

It comes as pharma giants AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson resume US vaccine trials after approval from regulators.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has also warned that countries in the Northern Hemisphere are at a "critical juncture".

US wildfires leave dozens missing in Oregon, state governor says

Fires have been raging in California, Oregon and Washington for three weeks.

Fanned by winds amid record heat, the blazes have burnt millions of acres, destroyed thousands of homes, and killed at least 25 people.

California's Governor Gavin Newsom said the fires show the debate around climate change is "over".

"Just come to the state of California. Observe it with your own eyes," he told reporters from a charred mountainside.