The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines

By Nectar Gan, Jenni Marsh and Tara John, CNN

Updated 0455 GMT (1255 HKT) December 21, 2020
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4:22 a.m. ET, December 20, 2020

Two more Alaska health care workers suffer adverse reactions to Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN's Hollie Silverman

Two health care workers at Providence Health Alaska suffered adverse reactions to a Covid-19 vaccine late last week, Mikal Canfield, a spokesman for Providence Alaska, told CNN on Saturday night.

Five adverse reactions to the vaccine have now been reported in Alaska. Last week, three health care workers in the state had allergic reactions after receiving doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, CNN previously reported.

Providence Alaska is not releasing the location where the two health care workers are employed, but the network has locations in Anchorage, Valdez, Seward and Kodiak, according to Canfield.

The health care workers who received the vaccine are "frontline caregivers involved directly with patient care," Canfield said.

They suffered mild and non-life-threatening reactions but have not consented to additional information on their conditions being released, Canfield said. 

Canfield told CNN Providence Alaska has reported the adverse reactions to the state health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).

CNN also reported Saturday that an Illinois hospital paused its Covid-19 vaccinations after four workers experienced reactions. 

CNN has reached out to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, as well as Pfizer, for comment. 

4:04 a.m. ET, December 20, 2020

Japan's winter Covid-19 wave worsens

From CNN’s Yoko Wakatsuki in Tokyo

A nurse collects a nasal swab sample from a car driver at a Covid-19 PCR testing center at Fujimino Emergency Hospital in Miyoshi-machi, Japan, on December 18.
A nurse collects a nasal swab sample from a car driver at a Covid-19 PCR testing center at Fujimino Emergency Hospital in Miyoshi-machi, Japan, on December 18. Carl Court/Getty Images

Japan recorded 2,985 new coronavirus infections and 45 related deaths on Saturday, the Japanese health ministry said on Sunday.

The country's total Covid-19 caseload now stands at 196,592, with 2,886 deaths.

Hospitals across Japan are currently caring for 26,169 Covid-19 parents, among whom 598 are under intensive care. 

Over the past weeks, a resurgent winter wave has seen daily case numbers climb to their highest levels since the beginning of the pandemic.

The surge in cases is being fueled by a worsening situation in capital Tokyo, where 739 new cases were recorded Saturday.

Another hard-hit prefecture, Osaka, recorded 311 new patients Saturday.

Some context: Japan, along with its neighbor South Korea, is seeing a rise in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations as cold winter temperatures set in. Winter was always expected to bring a spike in cases, as cold weather sends people indoors to poorly ventilated spaces -- conditions likely to make coronavirus spread more easily.

In Japan, cases have been rising steadily since the start of last month. On November 1, just over 600 cases were reported. Twenty days later there were more than 2,500 daily infections.

2:06 a.m. ET, December 20, 2020

Australian states close off to Sydney residents

From CNN's Angus Watson in Sydney

An empty Bridge street is seen in the Central Business District of Sydney, on December 19.
An empty Bridge street is seen in the Central Business District of Sydney, on December 19. James D. Morgan/Getty Images

Residents of Australia’s most populous city, Sydney, are no longer able to travel interstate without quarantining as a mystery Covid-19 cluster spreads in the city.

All Australian states and territories will require travellers from Sydney to undergo a 14-day quarantine on arrival, according to state governments.

On Saturday, 30 new locally transmitted cases of Covid-19 were detected in Sydney, all located in the Northern Beaches municipality.

The cluster has now grown to 68 cases, with its source still unknown.

Residents of the Northern Beaches have been told to stay in their homes until 11:59pm on Wednesday.

“It’s been done largely instinctively up there on the Northern Beaches,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Sunday, “I know that they’re looking to see things change in the not too distance future and they know that compliance can only help with getting that outcome.”
1:00 a.m. ET, December 20, 2020

US Congress on brink of deal on $900 billion relief package after resolving key dispute

From CNN's Manu Raju and Clare Foran

A deal on a long-awaited rescue package to deliver much-needed aid to struggling Americans suddenly was within reach after a major breakthrough Saturday night over a key sticking point: the role of the Federal Reserve to intervene in the US economy.

After days of tense negotiations over a provision pushed by Sen. Pat Toomey to pare back the role of the central bank's emergency lending authority, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and the Pennsylvania Republican reached a deal in principle over the provision, aides said. Now, the two sides will draft the legislative language to ensure it reflects the outlines of the deal.

Read the full story:

2:28 a.m. ET, December 20, 2020

More than 16 million people in England will be subject to stricter coronavirus restrictions

From CNN’s Luke McGee and Lindsay Isaac in London

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a news conference inside 10 Downing Street in London, on December 19.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a news conference inside 10 Downing Street in London, on December 19. Toby Melville/WPA Pool/Getty Images

More than 16 million people in England -- or 31% of the British population -- will spend their Christmas holiday under stricter coronavirus regulations, which are set to go into effect on Sunday, according to the UK government's Covid-19 task force.

The Tier 4 measures will be imposed on London and southeast England. They amount to a lockdown and will severely curtail movement over the Christmas holiday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the new restrictions on Saturday. He said the Tier 4 lockdown was needed in affected areas after a newly identified strain of Covid-19 has proved to spread more quickly than previous strains of the virus. 

"The spread is being driven by the new variant of the virus," Johnson said in a hastily called press conference. "It appears to spread more easily and may be up to 70% more transmissable than the earlier strain."

Johnson outlined that in Tier 4 areas under the toughest restrictions, there will be no possibility for household mixing over Christmas. In areas under lower alert levels in England, Scotland and Wales, mixing will now be permitted only on Christmas Day.

According to the country's Covid-19 task force, 19.7 million people, or 37% of the UK population, will live under Tier 3 guidelines, 16.1 million or 30% will live under Tier 2 and 856,000 or 2% will live under Tier 1 restrictions.

2:52 a.m. ET, December 20, 2020

Netherlands bans all flights from UK after London discloses new coronavirus variant

From CNN’s Taylor Barnes

A passenger passes a 'Merry Christmas' sign in the check-in area at London Heathrow Airport in London, on December 19.
A passenger passes a 'Merry Christmas' sign in the check-in area at London Heathrow Airport in London, on December 19. Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The Netherlands will ban all passenger flights from the United Kingdom starting at 6am local time Sunday, according to a press release from the government.

The Dutch government said it is doing so in order to minimize “as much as possible” the risk of a new coronavirus strain detected in the UK spreading in the Netherlands. The flight ban will remain in place until the new year, according to the release. 

The Dutch government said the same variant of the virus had been detected in the Netherlands in a sample from a case from early December, and that it is conducting further investigations to determine if there are any other related cases.

Earlier on Saturday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed stringent new lockdown measures on the capital and surrounding areas to slow the spread of the virus. The Tier 4 lockdown has forced Christmas holiday plans for more than 16 million people in the UK to be severely curtailed. 

12:01 a.m. ET, December 20, 2020

Sydney to enforce pre-Christmas restrictions as mystery Covid-19 cluster grows

From CNN's Angus Watson in Sydney

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian provides a Covid-19 update at RFS Headquarters in Sydney, on December 19.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian provides a Covid-19 update at RFS Headquarters in Sydney, on December 19. Dan Himbrechts/Pool/Getty Images

The Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) recorded 30 locally transmitted Covid-19 cases on Saturday, as a mystery coronavirus cluster in Sydney continues to grow.

State Premier Gladys Berejiklian said Sunday all of the 30 new cases were found in Sydney’s Northern Beaches area, with 28 directly linked to the cluster.

Authorities still don't know how the virus made its way into the community, although the state's health department said this particular strain is likely from the United States. 

The new cases announced on Sunday has brought the total number of cases in what’s known as the "Avalon cluster" to 68. 

Tightening restrictions: Residents of the Northern Beaches have been asked to remain at home through the end of Wednesday to halt the spread.

The rest of Sydney will be subjected to further social distancing measures, including a cap of 10 guests allowed at homes each day and a maximum of 300 people at hospitality venues. These restrictions are expected to last at least through Wednesday.

“Whilst the numbers are higher than they were yesterday, the one positive is we still have not seen evidence of massive seeding outside the Northern Beaches community and our aim of course is to keep that in place,” Berejiklian said.

The first cases of the cluster were reported Wednesday, the first locally-transmitted cases in NSW since December 3.

12:31 a.m. ET, December 20, 2020

California reports more than 43,000 new Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Gisela Crespo

A long line of vehicles line up to take Covid-19 tests at Long Beach City College-Veterans Memorial Stadium in Long Beach, California, on December 9.
A long line of vehicles line up to take Covid-19 tests at Long Beach City College-Veterans Memorial Stadium in Long Beach, California, on December 9. Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

California reported 43,608 new Covid-19 cases on Saturday, according to the state's Department of Public Health.

The daily caseload "is slightly higher than normal as it includes some cases from previous days," the department noted.

The state also reported 272 new virus-related deaths on Saturday.

On Thursday, California reported 379 fatalities from Covid-19, the highest daily death toll since the pandemic started.

To date, California has reported a total of 1,807,982 coronavirus cases and 22,432 deaths, according to its health department

NOTE: These numbers were released by the California Department of Public Health and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project. 

1:29 a.m. ET, December 20, 2020

Tennessee First Lady tests positive for Covid-19

From CNN's Carma Hassan

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, center, and his wife, Maria, leave the House Chamber after Lee gave his State of the State Address in Nashville, on February 3.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, center, and his wife, Maria, leave the House Chamber after Lee gave his State of the State Address in Nashville, on February 3. Mark Humphrey/AP

Tennessee First Lady Maria Lee has tested positive for Covid-19 and has mild symptoms of the virus, according to a statement from Republican Governor Bill Lee.

Gov. Lee says he is feeling well and has tested negative for Covid-19. He is quarantining at the Governor’s Residence, according to the statement.