December 23 coronavirus news

By James Griffiths, Adam Renton, Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner and Mike Hayes, Eoin McSweeney, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, December 24, 2020
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1:53 a.m. ET, December 23, 2020

Germany reports highest single-day coronavirus death toll

From CNN’s Samantha Beech in Atlanta

The word "Corona" is written in chalk on a coffin containing a deceased person who died of or with the coronavirus at the crematorium in Meissen, Germany on December 22.
The word "Corona" is written in chalk on a coffin containing a deceased person who died of or with the coronavirus at the crematorium in Meissen, Germany on December 22. Robert Michael/dpa/AP

Germany’s disease control agency reported 962 coronavirus deaths on Wednesday -- the country's highest single-day total since the pandemic began. The previous record was 952, recorded on December 15.

The European nation is currently experiencing a major surge in coronavirus infections, hospitalizations and deaths, and entered a hard national lockdown last week in an effort to bring the winter spike under control.

Other parts of the continent are also experiencing similar increases in cases amid the colder weather, and many countries have closed off travel to the United Kingdom after a new variant of the virus was detected there, which may be more infectious than previously-spreading forms.

On Wednesday, Germany reported an additional 24,740 coronavirus cases, bringing the national total to 1,554,920. At least 27,968 have died as a result of the coronavirus in Germany so far.

1:31 a.m. ET, December 23, 2020

US reports second-highest number of Covid-19 deaths in a single day 

From CNN’s Tina Burnside

The United States reported 195,033 new coronavirus cases and 3,401 deaths on Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

That's the second-highest number of coronavirus-related deaths in the US reported in a single day and also marks the fifth time since the pandemic began that the country has added more than 3,000 Covid-19 fatalities in a day.

The top five worst days for new deaths are:

  1. Dec. 16: 3,682
  2. Dec. 22: 3,401
  3. Dec. 17: 3,346
  4. Dec. 11: 3,283
  5. Dec. 9: 3,064

At least 18,230,242 cases of coronavirus and 322,765 deaths have been reported in the US, according to JHU data.

The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases. 

At least 4,624,325 vaccine doses have been distributed and at least 614,117 doses of the vaccine have been administered, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CNN is tracking US cases:

1:11 a.m. ET, December 23, 2020

Japan announces tighter controls on travelers from UK but stops short of a ban

From CNN's Yoko Wakatsuki in Tokyo

Japan has announced stricter controls on arrivals from the United Kingdom, imposing tighter measures on Japanese returners and business travelers, but will not ban travel from the European country.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said Japanese citizens returning from the UK must submit a negative PCR test result 72 hours before traveling and enter 14-day mandatory quarantine on arrival.

Some foreign business travelers that are residents of Japan can travel to and from the UK for up to seven days but must submit a negative test result 72 hours before travel and enter 14-day quarantine on arrival in Japan.

Kato said that the government would monitor the situation in other European countries where a new -- potentially more infectious -- coronavirus variant was discovered and would make changes to border control measures as necessary.

The chief cabinet secretary urged Japanese citizens against traveling to the UK.

1:04 a.m. ET, December 23, 2020

Argentina authorizes emergency use of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine

From CNNE's Ana Cucalon and CNN's Tatiana Arias

A vial of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is seen during a vaccination clinic at the Sir Ludwig Guttmann Health and Wellbeing Centre on December 15 in Stratford, England.
A vial of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is seen during a vaccination clinic at the Sir Ludwig Guttmann Health and Wellbeing Centre on December 15 in Stratford, England. Leon Neal/Getty Images

Argentina’s National Administration of Drugs, Foods and Medical Devices (ANMAT) has authorized emergency use of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine.

“The mentioned product presents an acceptable benefit-risk balance, which supports the granting of the registration and conditional authorization of the product,” the agency said in a statement late Tuesday.

The authorization will be good for one year starting on Tuesday and the vaccine can be sold by prescription only, according to the statement.

Pfizer must comply with the “the Risk Management Plan established to closely monitor the safety and efficacy of the drug and submit the corresponding progress reports, modifications and updates to the National Institute of Medicines (INAME)."

Separately on Tuesday, an Argentinian Airlines flight departed to Moscow to pick up a first shipment of the Russian Sputnik-V Covid-19 vaccine.

Argentina has recorded 1,555,279 cases of coronavirus and 42,254 virus-related deaths as of Tuesday, according to official government data.

12:14 a.m. ET, December 23, 2020

South Korea suspends flights from UK until end of the year

From CNN’s Jake Kwon in Seoul

South Korea will suspend flights from the United Kingdom starting Wednesday until December 31 due to the new Covid-19 variant spreading in that country.

There are currently around four flights between the UK and South Korea per week.

Health Ministry official Yoon Tae-ho announced during a Wednesday briefing that the country will also suspend issuance of quarantine exemptions at consulates in the UK.

All travelers from the UK will need to abide by the standard 14-day quarantine requirement and take an extra PCR test when exiting quarantine. Any traveler from the UK who tests positive for Covid-19 will also be tested for the new variant, the Health Ministry said.

New cases: South Korea reported 1,060 local cases and 32 imported infections on Tuesday, bringing the total to 52,550, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said in a news release.

Of Tuesday's cases, 718 were found in the Seoul metropolitan area. The country's death toll now stands at 739, with 17 additional fatalities recorded Tuesday.

12:06 a.m. ET, December 23, 2020

Peru surpasses 1 million Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Tatiana Arias

Wheelchairs for Covid-19 patients are seen at the Alberto Sabogal Sologuren Hospital, in Lima, Peru on December 11.
Wheelchairs for Covid-19 patients are seen at the Alberto Sabogal Sologuren Hospital, in Lima, Peru on December 11. Ernesto Benavides/AFP/Getty Images

Peru on Tuesday announced the country had reached a total of 1,000,153 confirmed coronavirus cases.

“To date, there are 4,209 hospitalized patients due to Covid-19, of which 1,111 are in the ICU with mechanical ventilation,” the South American country's Health Ministry said in its nightly Covid report.

A total of 37,218 people have died because of the virus in Peru, according to official data.

Peru has the fifth highest Covid-19 case count in Latin America, after Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Mexico.

CNN is tracking worldwide cases:

3:27 a.m. ET, December 23, 2020

UK plans mass testing for stranded drivers as French border reopens to those with proof of negative Covid test

From CNN's Jennifer Deaton

Drivers of freight lorries and heavy goods vehicles are illuminated by the lights inside their cabs as they are parked at a truck stop off the M20 leading to Dover, near Folkestone in Kent, south east England on December 22.
Drivers of freight lorries and heavy goods vehicles are illuminated by the lights inside their cabs as they are parked at a truck stop off the M20 leading to Dover, near Folkestone in Kent, south east England on December 22. Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

France and the United Kingdom have agreed to reopen their border -- closed due to fears of a new variant of the coronavirus detected in the UK -- but with strict stipulations including that those crossing must have tested negative for Covid-19 in the previous 72 hours.

Admittance to France will only be granted to those traveling “for urgent reasons,” and will include freight truck drivers, French citizens and British citizens with French residency, according to a UK Department for Transport statement.

The statement specified that all truck drivers traveling into France will require a lateral flow test which “can detect the new strain of Covid-19 and provide results in around 30 minutes," rather than the 24 hours required after a PCR test.

In Dover, a coastal town in England’s southeastern county of Kent, row after row of freight trucks could be seen standing idle Tuesday after moving from the port to an unused airfield to await more guidance from UK officials on what to do next.

NHS Test and Trace staff and the military will be deployed for a mass testing program across parts of Kent where the almost 3,000 heavy goods vehicles are currently stuck, PA Media reported.

The French government will also conduct sample testing on incoming freight to the UK, the statement from the UK Department for Transport added.

10:43 p.m. ET, December 22, 2020

US reports more than 3,000 Covid-19 deaths

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

The United States reported more than 3,000 coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University -- the fifth time since the pandemic began that the country has added more than 3,000 Covid-19 fatalities in a day.

Tuesday marked the fourth-highest number of deaths in the country from Covid-19 reported in a single day, according to JHU data.

The top five days for new deaths are:

  1. Dec. 16: 3,682
  2. Dec. 17: 3,346
  3. Dec. 11: 3,283
  4. Dec. 22: 3,221
  5. Dec. 9: 3,064
10:55 p.m. ET, December 22, 2020

Republicans taken by surprise at Trump's refusal to sign Covid relief bill

From CNN's Lauren Fox and Manu Raju

The US Capitol at dawn in Washington, D.C. on December 21.
The US Capitol at dawn in Washington, D.C. on December 21. Oliver Contreras/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Like many of his own aides, Republicans on Capitol Hill were not given a heads up that US President Donald Trump was going to rail against the stimulus bill tonight on Twitter.

A Republican leadership aide told CNN “no” when asked if this was expected. The aide pointed out that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had negotiated this bill. He was the White House’s voice in the room, everyone assumed. Another aide said Trump seemed to be “coming unhinged.”

The President is upset about several provisions that were actually in the omnibus spending bill, not the Covid relief bill.

“It is called the Covid relief bill, but it has almost nothing to do with Covid,” Trump said on Twitter.

The omnibus spending bill that appropriates money for all the federal agencies for the rest of the fiscal year was combined with the stimulus bill, meaning there are numerous provisions unrelated to the pandemic relief that has also been voted on by Congress.

Multiple sources in Congress told CNN the President's threats would not lead to a renegotiation, given the measure was passed with big veto-proof majorities.

How this plays out is uncertain. It’s possible Trump could veto the bill, but if he waits the full 10 days, it could push it into the new Congress when the Democratic majority is smaller in the House. The bill hasn’t even been sent to the White House yet for his signature.

At the moment, the hope on the Hill is he doesn’t veto the bill since he never explicitly said he will.

Some opposition lawmakers reacted approvingly to Trump's calls for greater stimulus checks, and House Democrats will try to pass by unanimous consent on Thursday a bill to increase direct payments, though any one member can scuttle that effort.

It’s unclear what will happen when or if such a bill is blocked.

Government funding runs out on December 28.