December 21 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Steve George, Meg Wagner and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, December 22, 2020
7 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
12:02 a.m. ET, December 21, 2020

China aims to vaccinate 50 million people ahead of Lunar New Year

From CNN’s Beijing Bureau

A worker checks syringes of Sinovac Biotech's potential Covid-19 vaccine, CoronaVac, on the production line during a media tour on September 24 in Beijing, China.
A worker checks syringes of Sinovac Biotech's potential Covid-19 vaccine, CoronaVac, on the production line during a media tour on September 24 in Beijing, China. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

China aims to inoculate 50 million people with homegrown Covid-19 vaccines ahead of February’s Lunar New Year celebrations.

Tao Lina, a vaccination expert formerly with the Shanghai Center for Disease Control and Prevention, confirmed the target to CNN on Monday after reviewing a transcript of a government conference call on December 15, where the mass vaccination rollout plan was discussed.

Tao added that implementation will depend on conditions on the ground.

“It is only a plan and whether the target can be reached depends on the actual situation,” he said.

Chinese authorities have said their first step will be to vaccinate essential workers such as medical and disease control professionals, customs and border inspection workers, and people in the food industry, according to health officials who attended a press conference Saturday on the country’s vaccination plan.

Since July, China has administered more than a million doses of domestically produced vaccines to people considered “high-risk” groups under an emergency use program. Officials say they have found no serious adverse reactions so far.

Currently, five vaccines developed by Chinese companies are going through the final phase of clinical trials in more than a dozen countries around the world.

12:49 a.m. ET, December 21, 2020

US scientists examine new UK coronavirus variant to see if it might be resistant to vaccine

From CNN Health's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen

Scientists at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research expect to know in the next few days if there's a concern that the coronavirus vaccines might not work against a mutated variant of the virus that's rapidly spreading in parts of England, according to the institute's top vaccine researcher.

The Walter Reed scientists still expect the vaccine will be effective against this new variant, said Dr. Nelson Michael, director of the Center for Infectious Diseases Research at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

On Thursday, the Walter Reed team started examining genetic sequences of the new UK variant posted online by British researchers.

They will do a computer analysis as a first step.

"The computer analysis will allow us to gauge how much concern we should have," Michael said. "Other teams around the world are doing this analysis, too."

If the computer analysis shows there's a concern, then studies would need to be done in the laboratory and in animals to more definitively determine if the vaccine will work on this variant.

Read more about the reaction to the variant here.

11:59 p.m. ET, December 20, 2020

Trump will sign a coronavirus relief bill

From CNN’s Jeremy Diamond

U.S. President Donald Trump departs the South Lawn of the White House on December 12.
U.S. President Donald Trump departs the South Lawn of the White House on December 12. Al Drago/Getty Images

US President Donald Trump will sign the coronavirus relief package once it reaches his desk, according to White House spokesman Ben Williamson.

“President Trump has pushed hard for months to send Americans badly needed financial relief. We look forward to Congress sending a bill to his desk imminently for signature,” Williamson said.

US Congressional leaders announced Sunday night that they had secured a deal for a sweeping $900 billion rescue package to deliver much-needed relief for small businesses, unemployed Americans and health care workers while bolstering vaccine distribution.

The announcement follows policy disputes and partisan finger-pointing between Democrats and Republicans that fueled uncertainty over whether lawmakers would manage to close out a deal or whether talks would collapse with lawmakers soon set to leave Washington for the holidays and the end of the 116th Congress in sight.

11:56 p.m. ET, December 20, 2020

Canada will ban all flights from the UK at midnight Sunday 

From CNN’s Paula Newton in Ottawa

Passengers wait to check-in their luggage at Montréal–Trudeau International Airport in Montreal, Canada on December 19.
Passengers wait to check-in their luggage at Montréal–Trudeau International Airport in Montreal, Canada on December 19. Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press/AP

Canada says it will ban most passenger travel from the United Kingdom beginning midnight Sunday.

That ban will last at least 72 hours. 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed the news in a tweet Sunday night local time, saying it was being done to protect Canadians across the country. 

In a statement, the Public Health Agency of Canada says that although more data on the Covid-19 variant is still needed, “the decision was made to suspend entry into Canada of all commercial and private passenger flights from the United Kingdom for 72 hours.” 

Trudeau convened a meeting of Canada’s cabinet level ‘Incident Response Group’ Sunday afternoon to discuss the new variant of Covid-19. The ministers of health, transport, public safety, and foreign affairs were all in attendance. 

What's happening in Canada: Canada has been dealing with a surge in daily cases and a troubling increase in hospitalizations and deaths. Canada’s Public Health Agency says this second wave is now worse than the first with cases and hospitalizations continuing to outpace the first wave’s peak. 

The province of Quebec said it would begin a lockdown Christmas Day after targeted lockdowns and restrictions failed to curb rising case counts. 

Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, is also considering a full lockdown after targeted closures failed to bring down infection rates in Toronto and its suburbs. 

Canada has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and started distribution a week ago. Public health officials say they will be begin distributing the Moderna vaccine as soon as it is approved. Health Canada, the national regulator, said it continues to review Moderna’s data and approval is expected within days. 

Canada has reported more than 511,000 coronavirus cases and more than 14,000 deaths.

11:55 p.m. ET, December 20, 2020

Two cases of new UK coronavirus variation detected in Australian quarantine

From journalist Angus Watson in Sydney, Australia

Two cases of the new Covid-19 variation detected in the United Kingdom have been found in managed quarantine facilities in Sydney, Australia, according to health authorities.

New South Wales Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said Monday that the cases had been identified in returning travelers from the UK while they were in state-imposed quarantine.

Australia requires all international arrivals -- with a few exceptions -- to undergo 14 days of state-run hotel quarantine.

Dr Chant said that the new UK strain is not responsible for an emerging cluster of Covid-19 in Sydney’s north. That cluster is now up to 83 cases, rising by 15 new cases detected Sunday.

“Today I'm advised that we've had a couple of UK returned travelers with the particular mutations [found in the UK]. Can I be very clear that the Avalon Cluster strain does not have those mutations,” Chant said.

Australia has reported more than 28,000 coronavirus cases and 908 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University's tally.

7:51 a.m. ET, December 21, 2020

Here's what we know about the new Covid variation

The United Kingdom has detected a new variation of Covid-19 that England's chief medical officer says is more contagious than previous variants.

Professor Chris Whitty says “urgent work” is underway to rule out if the new strain, prevalent in the south east of England, can cause a higher mortality rate. 

“There is no current evidence to suggest the new strain causes a higher mortality rate or that it affects vaccines and treatments although urgent work is underway to confirm this,” he said in a statement.

Here's what else we know.

What we know about the variant:

  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the new variant could be up to 70% more transmissible than the old variant, although there is still "considerable uncertainty."

Where it's been detected:

  • The World Health Organization says the new variant has also been identified in Denmark, the Netherlands and Australia.
  • Australia said on Monday that it had detected two cases of the new variant in Australian quarantine facilities.

What other countries are doing in response:

  • More than a dozen countries are banning travel from the UK in response to the new variant.
  • Those countries include the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.
  • Other countries are imposing restrictions -- the Czech Republic has imposed a 10-day mandatory quarantine on anyone arriving from the UK.

12:01 a.m. ET, December 21, 2020

These countries have imposed restrictions on flights between the UK

A growing list of countries have issued travel restrictions following the United Kingdom's announcement that it is battling a new Covid-19 variation.

At least 20 countries have banned travel to or from the UK, while other countries have imposed additional restrictions on travelers from the UK.

Here are some of the latest countries to bring in restrictions:

  • Canada: Canada says it will ban most passenger travel from the UK beginning midnight Sunday for at least 72 hours. Canada does not have a ban on flights to the UK.
  • Argentina: According to a joint statement published Sunday by the Argentinian Health and Interior Ministries, Argentina will only allow one more flight from Britain to land at the international airport in Buenos Aires on Monday morning. Other direct flights to and from the UK have been canceled. 
  • Chile: The Chilean government announced on Twitter that all flights to and from the UK will be suspended, beginning on Tuesday, and that travelers who have been to the UK in the last 14 days would have to self-quarantine. 
  • Colombia: Colombian president Ivan Duque announced that all flights between Colombia and the UK will be suspended, starting on Monday. Travelers who have been to the UK in the last 14 days will also have to self-quarantine upon entering Colombia, Duque told reporters.
  • Iran: Iran announced the suspension of flights to and from the UK for two weeks on Sunday, according to state news agency IRNA, citing an official with the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development. Deputy Minister Shahram Adamnejad said Iran’s Ministry of Health and Medical Education has decided to “halt the flights between the two countries because of the spread of new variant of the Covid-19 disease in the United Kingdom,” IRNA reported.
  • Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia is suspending all international flights following news of the new coronavirus variant, according the Ministry of Interior, state news reported Sunday.
  • European countries: The Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Germany, Italy, France, Estonia, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Latvia are all suspending flights from the UK.