A United Nations index of global food prices rose for the 12th consecutive month, its longest stretch in more than a decade. Since the pandemic began, a drought in Brazil has hit coffee and maize production. Output of vegetable oil in South-East Asia has also stagnated. Meanwhile, soaring meat consumption as China’s economy rapidly recovers has increased its demand for grain imports.
NASA announced two new missions to study Venus, Earth’s closest planetary neighbour. America’s space agency said it was awarding around $1bn to develop the launches which would take place between 2028 and 2030. One will measure the composition of the Venusian atmosphere. The other would map the planet’s surface (which is hot enough to melt lead) to establish why it developed so differently from Earth’s.
America responded to the imposition of digital-service taxes on its tech firms by levying tariffs on Austria, Britain, India, Italy, Spain and Turkey. That may have been more of a negotiating tactic than a genuine threat—Katherine Tai, America’s trade representative, said the tariffs would be suspended for six months to allow for multilateral discussions of tax arrangements.
Thursday, June 3 (Tokyo time)
6:00 p.m. Hong Kong's Department of Health has approved a government advisory panel's suggestion to lower the minimum age for the BioNTech vaccine from 16 to 12, citing phase-three clinical data. As of Thursday, about 14% of Hong Kong's population is fully vaccinated.
5:00 p.m. Indonesia has canceled the hajj pilgrimage for people in the world's largest Muslim-majority nation for a second year in a row due to concerns over the pandemic, the religious affairs minister says. For many Indonesians, the religious pilgrimage is a once-in-a-lifetime event, with the average wait time 20 years due to a quota system.
"Due to the pandemic and for the safety of the pilgrims, the government has decided that this year it won't allow Indonesian pilgrims to go again," the minister said, adding Saudi Arabia had not opened access for the hajj.
4:00 p.m. Taiwan reports 583 domestic infections, including 219 cases added to recent days' totals as it reflects delays in reporting positive tests. The figure was an increase from 549 reported on Wednesday.
3:55 p.m. While Vietnamese Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long shocked the world on Saturday by hinting that a newly discovered variant could have contributed to outbreaks within the country, Kidong Park, the WHO representative in Vietnam, told Nikkei Asia on Wednesday, "There is no new hybrid variant in Vietnam at this moment based on WHO definition."
Long had said the government uncovered "a new COVID-19 variant" that combines characteristics of two existing variants first found in India and the U.K.
1:50 p.m. India reports 134,154 cases in the last 24 hours, the seventh straight day with fewer than 200,000 infections, pushing the country's total to 28.44 million. Deaths rose by 2,887 to 337,989. Meanwhile, the health ministry says it has finalized a deal with domestic vaccine maker Biological-E and ordered 300 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine, which is currently in Phase 3 clinical trials. "These vaccine doses will be manufactured and stockpiled by Biological-E from August to December 2021," the ministry said in a statement, adding an advance payment of 15 billion rupees ($205 million) will be made.
11:10 a.m. Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, has insisted the games must go ahead as planned despite the COVID-19 pandemic. "We cannot postpone again," she said in an interview with Japan's Nikkan Sports newspaper. The Olympian-turned-politician also rejected the possibility of canceling the games.
11:00 a.m. South Korea reports 681 cases, up from 677 a day earlier and bringing the country totals to 142,157 cases, with 1,968 deaths.
7:54 a.m. Taiwan's baseball association tweets that it is withdrawing from the final Olympic baseball qualifier in Mexico later this month -- an event the island was due to host itself before tighter COVID-19 border rules prompted a venue change.
5:01 a.m. A COVID-19 vaccine summit hosted by Japan and global vaccine alliance Gavi secures nearly $2.4 billion, filling a shortfall for delivering 1.8 billion vaccine doses to low-income countries. Japan said it will donate $800 million to the COVAX facility, in addition to the $200 million the country has already disbursed.