December 22 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Adam Renton, Melissa Macaya and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, December 23, 2020
35 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
8:46 a.m. ET, December 22, 2020

CDC says UK coronavirus variant has not been identified in US, but it may be undetected

From CNN’s Jamie Gumbrecht and Michael Nedelman

Tami Chappell/AFP/Getty Images
Tami Chappell/AFP/Getty Images

The UK coronavirus variant has not been identified through sequencing efforts in the United States, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a scientific brief posted on its website Tuesday. 

However, it says, only about 51,000 of 17 million US cases it has tallied have been sequenced — less than half a percent.

 "Ongoing travel between the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as the high prevalence of this variant among current UK infections, increase the likelihood of importation," the agency says.
"Given the small fraction of US infections that have been sequenced, the variant could already be in the United States without having been detected."

The agency says: "CDC is monitoring the situation in the UK and communicating with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. CDC and state and local health departments are continually monitoring and studying the virus spreading in the United States to quickly detect any changes." 

Last month, the agency launched a "strain surveillance program”" that it expects to be "fully implemented" in January; it will include states sending at least 10 samples biweekly for analysis. 

Infectious disease expert discusses new variant:

8:24 a.m. ET, December 22, 2020

Wales to re-enlist support of UK military to help cope with surge in coronavirus cases

From CNN's Eleanor Pickston in London

A sign reminds people to socially distance to curb the spread of Covid-19 in Cardiff, Wales, on December 19.
A sign reminds people to socially distance to curb the spread of Covid-19 in Cardiff, Wales, on December 19. Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

More than 90 soldiers will be deployed on Wednesday to assist Welsh medical services to ease pressure caused by a rise in coronavirus cases, Welsh Ambulance Services said Tuesday. 

The soldiers will offer support in driving ambulances and assisting paramedics after the service warned earlier this month that it was under “acute pressure,” with almost double the amount of calls predicted and a “sharply rising” number of coronavirus cases in the community.

“The extreme pressure on our ambulance service in the last couple of weeks has been well documented, and it’s why we’ve taken the decision to re-enlist the military, who did a superb job of assisting us earlier in the year,” Chief Executive of Welsh Ambulance Services, Jason Killens, said in a statement.

This latest announcement comes after Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford brought forward a planned lockdown on Sunday, moving Wales into Tier 4 -- the highest level of restrictions -- and scrapping plans to ease restrictions over the Christmas period.

Drakeford made the “difficult decision” to impose an early Tier 4 lockdown from Sunday 20 December, rather than after Christmas, closing all non-essential shops and banning household mixing, with the exception of single-person households, which are permitted to form an exclusive support bubble with one other household. However, on Christmas Day, two households will be allowed to meet.

Wales reported 2,761 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday and 24 new deaths from the virus, according to Public Health Wales. 

According to Welsh Ambulance Services, more than 20,000 military personnel have been supporting public services across the UK during the pandemic as part of a "COVID Support Force."

7:22 a.m. ET, December 22, 2020

Countries continue to suspend flights to the UK after new coronavirus variant discovered

From CNN Staff

An electronic information display board shows the "cancelled" status of flights, including those bound for Dublin, Istanbul, and Munich among others, in the departures hall at Terminal 2 of Heathrow Airport in London, on December 21.
An electronic information display board shows the "cancelled" status of flights, including those bound for Dublin, Istanbul, and Munich among others, in the departures hall at Terminal 2 of Heathrow Airport in London, on December 21. Niklas Halle'n/AFP/Getty Images

Countries around the world are imposing bans and restrictions on travel from the United Kingdom to stem the transmission of a coronavirus variant that health authorities say can spread faster than others.

The new variant discovered in the UK prompted authorities to impose a Tier 4 lockdown in London and southeast England and tighten restrictions for all of England over the festive period.

Since the UK lockdown was announced on Saturday, nearly 40 countries in Europe, Asia, South America and the Middle East have restricted travel from the UK and in some cases, also travel from other countries that have documented cases with the variant.

The variant has also been detected in Denmark, the Netherlands and Australia, according to the World Health Organization. In South Africa, a different coronavirus variant has been reported, the WHO's technical lead for Covid-19, Maria van Kerkhove, said Monday.

The Republic of Ireland has banned flights and ferries from Britain on Monday and Tuesday, the government announced Sunday, but it is still possible to travel to Northern Ireland.

The United States had not issued a ban on travel from the UK as of early Tuesday morning.

However, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has called for either a ban on travel from the UK or mandatory testing of passengers. Now all passengers on Delta, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic flights between the UK and New York City will be obliged to present negative tests ahead of their flight.

7:02 a.m. ET, December 22, 2020

Slight decrease in Coronavirus-related deaths in England and Wales as cases rise

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite

Coronavirus-related deaths in England and Wales have decreased for the second week in a row, as of 11 December, the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) said Tuesday in its latest weekly report.

The number of death registrations in England and Wales involving coronavirus decreased from 2,835 in Week 49 (ending on 4 December) to 2,756 in Week 50 (ending on 11 December) -- a 2.8% decrease. Of all deaths registered in Week 50, 22.4% involved coronavirus, the ONS added.

Of deaths registered across the entire UK in Week 50, 3,062 deaths involved coronavirus -- 98 fewer than in Week 49, the ONS noted.

Coronavirus cases have been rising in the UK since the beginning of December, data shows. According to the latest daily figures from the British government, 33,364 new cases and 215 further deaths have been recorded in the UK.

A new coronavirus variant has prompted the UK government to impose a Tier 4 lockdown in London and southeastern England, and tighten restrictions for all of England over the festive period.

6:34 a.m. ET, December 22, 2020

New budget for postponed Tokyo Olympic Games announced

From CNN's Yoko Wakatsuki in Tokyo

A camera person records as Toshiro Muto, Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games CEO, right, speaks during a press conference in Tokyo on December 22.
A camera person records as Toshiro Muto, Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games CEO, right, speaks during a press conference in Tokyo on December 22. Carl Court/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Organizing Committee reported on Tuesday its budget for the upcoming games totals $15.4B, including costs of postponement and additional Covid-19 countermeasures being taken. This is an increase from $12.6B forecast prior to the Olympics. 

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto called the additional costs are a "positive investment" and said the games would be a “role model” for big international events during the pandemic.

All 68 Olympic sponsors have agreed in principle to extend their agreements through 2021 and may combine sponsorship with additional support, according to Muto.

Muto added some estimates predict the games will still generate 4-5trillion yen ($37-46M) in economic activity in Japan.

Muto reiterated that the details of the game including the scale of the ceremonies, the numbers of foreign spectators, and virus prevention measures will be decided this spring. 

6:22 a.m. ET, December 22, 2020

When can YOU get the vaccine? It depends on your health, occupation and where you live

From CNN's Eliott C. McLaughlin

A pharmacist administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to a resident of the Triboro Center nursing home in the Bronx borough of New York, on Monday, December 21.
A pharmacist administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to a resident of the Triboro Center nursing home in the Bronx borough of New York, on Monday, December 21. Eric Lee/Bloomberg/Getty Images

With two Covid-19 vaccines approved for emergency use and politicians, health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities rolling up their sleeves, it's a natural question: What about me and my loved ones?

A lot of factors play into the answer, and it depends on each person's health, what they do for a living and where they live.

States will handle immunization campaigns differently, experts say. Some campaigns may be smoother than others, but if there is one piece of advice to keep in mind, it's this: Keep taking measures to protect yourself and your family until you're inoculated.

That means continuing to wear masks, socially distance, avoid large gatherings and regularly wash your hands.

People just need to be patient," said Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers. "They need to be vigilant and protect themselves from the virus."

As for when Americans can lower their guards and get back to in-person socializing, "I would leave that to Dr. (Anthony) Fauci," she said, referring to the nation's top infectious disease expert and President-elect Joe Biden's incoming chief medical adviser.

6:00 a.m. ET, December 22, 2020

New Covid-19 variant could raise the bar for achieving herd immunity, BioNTech CEO says

From CNN’s Fred Pleitgen and Mary Ilyushina

Ugur Sahin, Chairman of BioNTech, is pictured on December 4 in Mainz, Germany.
Ugur Sahin, Chairman of BioNTech, is pictured on December 4 in Mainz, Germany. Florian Gaertner/Photothek/Getty Images

The new variant of coronavirus may require countries to vaccinate a higher proportion of their populations, raising the bar for achieving herd immunity, BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said in a news conference Tuesday.

"(On) the topic of herd immunity there is always the discussion about 60 to 70%," Sahin said. "But if the virus becomes more efficient at infecting people, we might need even a high vaccination rate to ensure that normal life can continue without interruption."
"But 60 to 70% of vaccination rate will really dramatically change the situation," Sahin added. "It is not that we have to deal with outbreaks if the virus becomes more effective but it still would provide a more or less normal life." 

But he also added that he has "scientific confidence" that the current Pfizer/BioNTech could work against the new variant of coronavirus spreading across the UK. The full data will be available in two weeks.

According to Sahin, the new variant has nine mutations but as the vaccine contains more than 1,270 amino acids and only nine have changed it means the "99 percent of the protein is still the same."

5:20 a.m. ET, December 22, 2020

In the Congo rainforest, the doctor who discovered Ebola warns of deadly viruses yet to come

From CNN's Sam Kiley

Humanity faces an unknown number of new and potentially fatal viruses emerging from Africa's tropical rainforests, according to Professor Jean-Jacques Muyembe Tamfum, who helped discover the Ebola virus in 1976 and has been on the frontline of the hunt for new pathogens ever since.

"We are now in a world where new pathogens will come out," he told CNN. "And that's what constitutes a threat for humanity."

As a young researcher, Muyembe took the first blood samples from the victims of a mysterious disease that caused hemorrhages and killed about 88% of patients and 80% of the staff who were working at the Yambuku Mission Hospital when the disease was first discovered.

The vials of blood were sent to Belgium and the US, where scientists found a worm-shaped virus. They called it "Ebola," after the river close to the outbreak in the country that was then known as Zaire.

The identification of Ebola relied on a chain that connected the most remote parts of Africa's rainforests to high-tech laboratories in the West.

Now, the West must rely on African scientists in the Congo and elsewhere to act as the sentinels to warn against future diseases.

Read the full story:

5:12 a.m. ET, December 22, 2020

Morocco imposes a night curfew to fight the spread of Covid-19

From CNN's Kareem Khadder in Jerusalem

Morocco has imposed additional precautionary measures across the country including a night curfew to fight the spread of coronavirus and the new variant of the virus, state media reported on Tuesday.

Those measures will start on December 23 and last for three weeks.

A statement published on Morocco's state media (MAP) said that coffee shops, restaurants, shops, and supermarkets will close at 8 p.m. each night.

A night curfew will be imposed for three weeks between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. nationwide except for special cases. Public and private parties will be prohibited and restaurants will be completely closed in Casablanca, Marrakech, Agadir, and Tangier for three weeks, according to the statement.

All precautionary measures previously announced will be maintained, MAP reported.

Morocco has reported more than 418,000 cases and 7,000 deaths.