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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11:23 p.m. ET, December 22, 2020

Trump throws Covid relief bill in doubt by asking Congress to amend it

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal, Kevin Liptak and Jeremy Diamond

U.S. President Donald Trump appears on a video posted on his Twitter account on the evening of December 22.
U.S. President Donald Trump appears on a video posted on his Twitter account on the evening of December 22. Donald J. Trump/Twitter

President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he is asking for changes to the coronavirus relief bill passed by Congress, leaving the future of the $900 billion stimulus in question.

"I'm asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000 or $4,000 per couple," Trump said in a video released on Twitter. "I'm also asking Congress to immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items in this legislation or to send me a suitable bill."

The extraordinary message came after he largely left negotiations over the measure to lawmakers and his Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Trump did not explicitly threaten to veto the bill, but said he was dissatisfied with its final state.

The statement was filmed by the White House and was not open to the press. Reporters did not have a chance to ask the President questions. It's unclear when the message was recorded.

The President has in the past said he would sign the bill, and earlier Tuesday the White House publicly defended the bill. But many of his allies have spoken out against the agreement passed.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

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9:11 p.m. ET, December 22, 2020

UK scientists say new virus strain likely more transmissible and may impact children more than other variants

From CNN's Amy Cassidy in Glasgow, Zamira Rahim and Naomi Thomas

Scientists from the UK’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) say they are now “highly confident” the new variant of coronavirus is more infectious than others, with a “hint” that it could be more transmissible in children. 

According to NERVTAG, the new variant -- which is believed to have originated in southeast England -- could be around 71% more transmissible than other variants. 

“As of last Friday, we felt we had moderate confidence because the data was coming in, but some of the analysis had been done very quickly,” Peter Horby, professor of emerging infectious diseases at the University Oxford and chair of NERVTAG, said during a virtual news briefing on Monday.

“We now have high confidence that this variant does have a transmission advantage over other virus variants that are currently in the UK,” he added. 

Speaking alongside Horby, Professor Neil Ferguson from Imperial College London noted that there is a “hint” that this variant “has a higher propensity to infect children,” compared with earlier strains. But he cautioned that “we haven’t established any sort of causality on that, but we can see that in the data,” he added.  

Another NERVTAG member, Wendy Barclay, head of the Department of Infectious Disease at Imperial College London, said earlier strains of the virus may have had a “harder time” getting into human cells using a receptor called ACE2. Adults, who have a lot of this receptor in their noses and throats, are “easy targets” compared to children. But under this hypothesis, a virus that can more readily use this receptor to enter cells may make children just as susceptible to the virus as adults, she said. 

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some research suggests the UK strain may "bind more tightly” to the ACE2 receptor, but "it is unknown whether that tighter binding, if true, translates into any significant epidemiological or clinical differences.”

Read more about the new Covid-19 variant:

10:57 p.m. ET, December 22, 2020

Covid-19 is now on every continent as Antarctica records its first outbreak

From CNN's Kara Fox, Florencia Trucco, Cristopher Ulloa and Maija Ehlinger

Antarctica has recorded its first Covid-19 case after 36 people tested positive on a research base, according to a statement released by the Chilean Army.

The news marks an unfortunate milestone in the global fight against coronavirus, as until this week, Antarctica was the last continent free from the virus' grip.

On Sunday, the General Bernardo O'Higgins Riquelme Base, a Chilean research base located on Antarctica's northernmost Trinity Peninsula, confirmed that 26 army personnel and 10 civilians working as contractors on the base tested positive with Covid-19.

The outbreak comes after at least three people tested positive for Covid-19 on a military vessel that had been supplying logistical support to the O'Higgins base between November 27 and December 10.

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