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
17 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
4:02 a.m. ET, December 23, 2020

Traveler becomes first to use a digital Covid-19 health certificate to cross an international border 

The pilot use of ICC AOKpass marks the first ever digital authentication of health records that is verified officially at Singapore immigration.
The pilot use of ICC AOKpass marks the first ever digital authentication of health records that is verified officially at Singapore immigration. Affinidi/International SOS

A Singaporean citizen returning to the country from Japan on December 21 became the first person in the world to use a digital Covid-19 health certificate while crossing the border, the companies behind the pass said in a statement. 

According to International SOS, the International Chamber of Commerce, and AOKpass, an unidentified passenger on Singapore Airlines flight SQ637 was able to use the ICC AOKpass to officially present a negative Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test upon arrival at Changi Airport’s immigration counters. 

"This was the first time an immigration authority has used a blockchain based, digitally verifiable health certificate," the statement said, adding the certificate had been issued by Shinagawa East Medical Centre in Japan. 

"Following the successful pilot program, all travelers, starting with Malaysia and Indonesia will now be able to use ICC AOKpass to digitally authenticate their COVID-19 test results, as well as any other necessary health credentials during immigration at Changi Airport," the statement said, adding that digital certificates were a major leap forward compared to the paper passes that have been used previously. 

In the statement, Chester Drum, cofounder of AOKpass, said "as we look towards the revival of widespread international travel and trade, there is an urgent need for a common framework in certifying, authenticating and securing the results of a Covid-19 test for air transport stakeholders and local health authorities."

"In addition, users must trust that their data privacy is managed well, with no risk of personal data leaks," Drum added. "The use of blockchain technology is a critical step in combating the challenges of forged tests and medical records, while enabling quick and secure verification of Covid-19 test results for travelers to have peace of mind throughout their journey."

Many countries require passengers to demonstrate proof of a negative Covid test before traveling, and as vaccines are rolled out worldwide, immigration authorities may begin to ask for certification that people have been vaccinated against the infection.

3:28 a.m. ET, December 23, 2020

UK minister hopes vehicles stuck at border will be able to cross into France soon

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite

Police officers direct lorry drivers at the Port of Dover on December 23 in Dover, United Kingdom.
Police officers direct lorry drivers at the Port of Dover on December 23 in Dover, United Kingdom. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

UK Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick hopes that a vehicle pile-up at the country's border with France can be resolved soon, he told Sky News on Wednesday.

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.

"We have had productive discussions over the last 24/48 hours," Jenrick said. "They have reached what seems like a sensible way forwards. There's going to be quite a lot of work to do in the next few days and this isn't going to be an issue that will be resolved immediately ... I wish events hadn't played out in the way they have but, but they have, we now have to move on and ensure that traffic can flow as quickly as possible across the Channel."

Jenrick added he hoped that "this morning, you'll see people and HGVs (heavy goods vehicles) crossing the Channel."

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

"We're putting in place the infrastructure. So the armed forces will be doing that in the first instance to help us to set that up and to get through some of the (testing) backlog that you've seen, they will then in turn hand over to civilians who will take this forward," Jenrick said.

As of 7 p.m. Tuesday evening, there were almost 3,000 heavy goods vehicles parked at Manston Airport in Kent, and up to 800 more in other areas across the county, Jenrick added.

He cautioned there could be "other HGVs and smaller vehicles are parked elsewhere in Kent because they've chosen not to come into the official operation. So the true number may be slightly higher than that. Whatever the number is, whether it's 4,000 or more, It's a significant number to work through."
2:56 a.m. ET, December 23, 2020

Nepal suspends entry for all passengers flying from or transiting through the UK

From CNN's Esha Mitra

Nepal has become the latest country to ban entry to passengers traveling from or transiting through the United Kingdom, in response to fears over a new variant of coronavirus detected in Europe.

"Aircraft bound to Nepal shall not onboard the passengers originating from or transiting through United Kingdom (UK) due to severe contagion of a new strain of Corona Virus in the UK," Nepal's Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement.

"There are no direct flights from Nepal to the UK, so we are not concerned about passengers who would be traveling from Nepal to the UK. We have banned only incoming traffic so that the virus doesn't enter Nepal," said Bikram Gautam, the authority's deputy director.

The restrictions come into force from 11:59 p.m. on December 23, and will be valid until further notice.

International flights to Nepal resumed in September, but at a reduced capacity, and tourists' entry into the country remains restricted, Gautam added.

2:28 a.m. ET, December 23, 2020

Tokyo Olympic Games opening and closing ceremonies will take a "simpler, more restrained approach"

From CNN's Yoko Wakatsuki in Tokyo

A man and a woman look at the floating Olympic rings along Tokyo Bay on December 1.
A man and a woman look at the floating Olympic rings along Tokyo Bay on December 1. Eugene Hoshiko/AP

The opening and closing ceremonies for the delayed Tokyo Olympic Games will be carried out with a "simpler, more restrained approach," the organizing committee announced on Wednesday.

The ceremonies will be designed to "reflect the overall simplification of the Games" with Covid-19 countermeasures in place.

Tokyo 2020 was originally due to take place this summer, but was postponed to next year as a result of the pandemic.

The organizing committee made no announcements about how the ceremonies' formats would be different or modified.

"It is appropriate to make ceremonial events and programs simpler and have them in some way reflect and respect the world's experience of the COVID-19 pandemic," the committee said in a statement. A new team will be convened that will help prepare the events.
The hope is that the ceremonies can be "symbols of the unity and symbiosis of humankind in its overcoming of the COVID-19 pandemic," the statement said.

New cases: Japan on Wednesday reported 2,683 new coronavirus infections and 50 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the total death toll to 3,007.

Tokyo, the worst-hit city, reported 563 cases in the past 24 hours.

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.