December 29 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Adam Renton, Amy Woodyatt, Harry Clarke-Ezzidio and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, December 30, 2020
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7:58 a.m. ET, December 29, 2020

The Netherlands has recorded the biggest increase in its yearly death toll since WWII

From CNN's Mick Krever

People light candles during a vigil for the victims of COVID-19 at the Dam, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on August 6.
People light candles during a vigil for the victims of COVID-19 at the Dam, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on August 6. Robin Utrecht/ANP/AFP/Getty Images

The Netherlands' increased death toll in 2020 was the worst observed in the country since World War II, according to the government’s statistics body. 

“In 2020, up to and including week 51, around 162,000 people have died, 13,000 more than expected,” Statistics Netherlands said in a statement. “Such an increase in the number of deceased has not been observed since the Second World War.”

As of Monday, 11,042 people in the Netherlands have died of Covid-19 and 770,400 have been infected, according to the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment.

The Dutch government recently announced new rules requiring nearly all new arrivals to the Netherlands to have a negative PCR test in order to enter the country.

7:51 a.m. ET, December 29, 2020

UK military to support mass testing in English schools

From CNN’s Sharon Braithwaite in Pisa, Italy and Arnaud Siad in Reykjavík, Iceland

Military personnel are set to assist with the rollout of a mass coronavirus testing program in high schools across England, the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) announced Tuesday in a statement.

“This week I have authorized over a thousand Armed Forces personnel to assist schools returning after the Christmas break,” UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said. 

According to the MOD, 1,500 Armed Forces personnel will be made available to support the Department for Education and the Department for Health and Social Care “to ensure that students and staff can return as safely as possible” when the new term begins in January. 

The Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, welcomed the MOD’s support, adding in a statement that the testing of students in schools will “break chains of transmission, fight the virus, and help deliver the national priority of keeping education open for all.”

7:24 a.m. ET, December 29, 2020

Indonesia to ban entry to foreign nationals from January 1

From CNN's Akanksha Sharma

Travelers arrive at Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II airport in Palembang, Indonesia on December 23.
Travelers arrive at Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II airport in Palembang, Indonesia on December 23. Muhammad A.F/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Indonesia will close its borders to foreign travelers for two weeks, beginning January 1, to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus strain, according to state-run news agency Antara.

"[We are] temporarily closing Indonesian borders, from January 1 to 14 of 2021, for foreign nationals from all countries," the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Retno Marsudi, said at an online media conference on Monday.

Indonesian citizens who travel abroad will be allowed to re-enter if they can show negative PCR results before travelling back and take an additional PCR test on arrival, Marsudi said.

After arriving, citizens will then have to isolate for five days and take another PCR test, the minister added.

High-ranking foreign officials and representatives from foreign countries will be excluded from the new ban, state-run news agency Antara reported.

Indonesia has had 719,219 confirmed Covid-19 cases, and 21,452 deaths from the virus, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

7:25 a.m. ET, December 29, 2020

Philippines expands travel ban over new coronavirus variant

From CNN's Akanksha Sharma

The Philippines has banned inbound foreign travelers from 18 countries and Hong Kong according to the Philippines News Agency (PNA).

The latest restrictions expands the current ban on travelers from the UK, which was put in place to stop new coronavirus variants being brought into the country

Foreign travelers from Denmark, Ireland, Japan, Australia, Israel, The Netherlands, Switzerland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Lebanon, Singapore, Sweden, South Korea, South Africa, Canada, Spain, and Hong Kong will be banned from December 30 until January 15.

The new restrictions were announced in a memo from President Duterte’s office and give allowances for returning Filipino citizens, who must quarantine four 14 days, regardless of coronavirus test results, PNA reports.

There have been 470,650 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Philippines, and 9,124 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

7:09 a.m. ET, December 29, 2020

EU calls for "immediate release" of Chinese journalist who documented Wuhan coronavirus outbreak

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite

In this photo taken April 14, Zhang Zhan eats a meal at a park during a visit to Wuhan in China's Hubei province.
In this photo taken April 14, Zhang Zhan eats a meal at a park during a visit to Wuhan in China's Hubei province. Melanie Wang/AP

The European Union has called for the "immediate release" of Zhang Zhan, an independent Chinese journalist jailed for her role in documenting the early outbreak of coronavirus in Wuhan, China.

Zhang reported from Wuhan at the height of the initial coronavirus outbreak and has been jailed for four years by a Shanghai court after being found guilty of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble", her lawyer said Monday.

A former lawyer, Zhang traveled some 400 miles from Shanghai to Wuhan in early February to report on the pandemic and subsequent attempts to contain it, just as the authorities began reining in state-run and private Chinese media.

For more than three months, she documented snippets of life under lockdown in Wuhan and the harsh reality faced by its residents, from overflowing hospitals to empty shops. She posted her observations, photos and videos on Wechat, Twitter and YouTube -- the latter two of which are blocked in China.

"The restrictions on freedom of expression, on access to information, and intimidation and surveillance of journalist s …in China, are growing and continue to be a source of great concern," a spokesperson for the EU's Foreign and Security Policy Service said in a statemen on Tuesdayt."“According to credible sources, Ms Zhang has been subject to torture and ill-treatment during her detention and her health condition has seriously deteriorated. It is crucial that she receives adequate medical assistance"” the statement added.

The EU has also called for the immediate release of "other detained and convicted human rights defenders …as well as all those who have engaged in reporting activities in the public interest."

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), China is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world and tightly controls the press at home while blocking most foreign media outlets via the Great Firewall, its vast online censorship and surveillance apparatus.

6:23 a.m. ET, December 29, 2020

Netherlands to demand negative Covid-19 test for almost all arrivals

From CNN's Mick Krever

Arriving passengers are reflected in a screened window at the airport in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on December 24.
Arriving passengers are reflected in a screened window at the airport in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on December 24. Ben Curtis/AP

Nearly all people arriving in the Netherlands will now need to provide proof of a negative coronavirus PCR test, taken within the past 72 hours.

The rule applies to arrivals from within and outside the European Union, whether arriving by air, train, or bus -- but not those coming into the country by private car.

The test requirement does not negate the requirement to quarantine for 10 days upon arrival, nor the EU-wide ban on non-essential travel from outside the bloc.

So far, 11,042 people in the Netherlands have died of Covid-19 and 770,400 have been infected, according to data from the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment.

The government announced the new rule last week; it came into effect Tuesday at midnight.

"This is one of the Dutch measures to prevent the import and spread of the coronavirus," the government said in a statement.

 

5:51 a.m. ET, December 29, 2020

Kamala Harris to receive Covid-19 vaccine on Tuesday

From CNN's Kate Sullivan and Arlette Saenz

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris listens as President-elect Joe Biden delivers remarks at the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware, on December 28.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris listens as President-elect Joe Biden delivers remarks at the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware, on December 28. Mark Makela/Getty Images

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is expected to receive her first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine on Tuesday, according to the Biden transition team.

A transition official told CNN that the vaccine would be administered live on camera from Washington, DC.

The official said Harris' husband, Doug Emhoff, would also receive the vaccine on Tuesday.

Who has received the vaccine? The vice president-elect's vaccination will come just over a week after President-elect Joe Biden received his live on national television. After getting the shot, Biden reassured Americans of the vaccine's safety and urged them to get vaccinated as soon as the shots became available to them.

Vice President Mike Pence was administered the vaccine at an on-camera event the week prior to Biden. The first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine were administered to health care workers the same week that Pence received his shot.

President Donald Trump has not yet received the vaccine and won't be administered one until it is recommended by the White House medical team, a White House official previously told CNN.

Read the full story here.

5:31 a.m. ET, December 29, 2020

Record Covid-19 hospitalizations in US could soon force health experts to ration care

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe

A nurse works with a Covid-positive patient inside the ICU at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in Los Angeles, California, on December 17.
A nurse works with a Covid-positive patient inside the ICU at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in Los Angeles, California, on December 17. Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

The number of patients hospitalized across the US with Covid-19 is the highest it's ever been -- and at this rate health experts warn they may have to ration nurses, respirators and care.

"When you run out of capacity, physicians and bioethicists in these hospitals will need to decide which patients are salvageable -- potentially salvageable -- and which patients aren't," CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner explained.

Hospitalizations at a high: The US reported 121,235 patients hospitalized with coronavirus Monday -- the highest that figure has been since the start of the pandemic, according to the Covid Tracking Project. The number of ICU coronavirus patients has increased from 16% in September to 40% last week, and health experts anticipate holiday travel could lead to a "surge on top of a surge."

Hospitals consider rationing care: That spike in cases would put Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in Los Angeles in the position of needing to ration care, CEO Dr. Elaine Batchlor said Monday.

"If we continue to see an increase in the number of Covid patients, we may be forced to do something that, as health professionals, we all really just loathe having to even think about," Batchlor told CNN's Brooke Baldwin.

Battlefield triage techniques: Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital will not turn patients away, Batchlor said, but staff may have to employ techniques that have been used in war.

"We use what in the battlefield is called triage techniques, which is doing an assessment of each person's needs and prognosis and using scarce resources with patients that are most likely to benefit from them," she said.

Read the full story here.

5:10 a.m. ET, December 29, 2020

UK's National Health Service is "back in the eye of the storm" amid rising cases, official says

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite

National Health Service England chief Simon Stevens.
National Health Service England chief Simon Stevens. UK Pool

The UK's National Health Service (NHS) is "back in the eye of the storm," NHS England chief Simon Stevens said Monday, as confirmed cases and hospitalizations continue to surge. 

"We are back in the eye of the storm with a second wave of coronavirus sweeping Europe and, indeed, this country," Stevens said. "This has probably been the toughest year that most of us can remember. That's certainly true across the health service, where we've been responding to the worst pandemic in a century."

Stevens' comments come a day after NHS England figures revealed at least 20,426 hospital beds are now occupied by confirmed coronavirus patients -- that's more than during the first peak of the pandemic in April. 

Speaking in a video message, Stevens commended the work of healthcare professionals and scientists working to develop "breakthrough" vaccines. 

"We think that with vaccine supplies continuing to come on stream, we will have been able to offer all vulnerable people across this country this Covid vaccination. And that perhaps provides the biggest chink of hope for the year ahead," he said. 

On Monday, the UK recorded a further 41,385 coronavirus cases, breaking its single-day record, and a further 357 Covid-19 deaths were recorded.