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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2:31 a.m. ET, December 29, 2020

South Korea announces $8.5 billion emergency relief for small businesses impacted by Covid-19

From CNN’s Yoonjung Seo in Seoul

Shoppers walk along a street in the Myeongdong district of Seoul, South Korea on December 28.
Shoppers walk along a street in the Myeongdong district of Seoul, South Korea on December 28. Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

The South Korean government will provide emergency relief handouts worth 9.3 trillion Korean won ($ 8.52 billion) to small business owners and people who are struggling due to Covid-19 prevention measures, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said during a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

In a statement provided by the presidential Blue House, Moon said that relief funds will be provided for people starting from early January.

The funds range between 1 million to 3 million Korean won ($915 to $2,750) depending on the degree that the pandemic has impacted livelihoods.

1:57 a.m. ET, December 29, 2020

India reports lowest 24-hour increase in Covid-19 cases in 6 months

From CNN's Swati Gupta in New Delhi

Incoming travelers are screened for the coronavirus at Anand Vihar Inter State Bus Terminal on December 27 in New Delhi, India.
Incoming travelers are screened for the coronavirus at Anand Vihar Inter State Bus Terminal on December 27 in New Delhi, India. Biplov Bhuyan/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

India reported its lowest 24-hour rise in coronavirus cases in six months on Tuesday with 16,432 new infections, according to figures issued by the country's Health Ministry.

Tuesday’s 24-hour death toll was also the lowest since June 9. 

The total number of cases in India stands at 10,224,303, including 148,153 deaths, according to the Health Ministry. 

India's new Covid-19 cases have been trending downward since October.  

More than 169.8 million tests had been conducted as of Tuesday, according to the Indian Council of Medical Research.

Vaccines: The distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine has not begun in India as three vaccine manufacturers, including Pfizer and Serum Institute of India, are still awaiting emergency approval from Indian regulators. 

1:21 a.m. ET, December 29, 2020

US reports more than 168,000 Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Joe Sutton in Atlanta

The United States reported 168,817 new Covid-19 cases and 1,718 additional deaths on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University's tally.

At least 19,301,543 total cases and 334,836 deaths have now been recorded in the US.

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

CNN is tracking US cases:

1:00 a.m. ET, December 29, 2020

Japan detects first case of South African Covid-19 variant

From CNN’s Junko Ogura in Tokyo

Japan’s Health Ministry announced on Monday that it had detected the country's first case of the South African Covid-19 variant

A woman in her 30s who arrived at Tokyo’s Narita airport from South Africa on December 19 tested positive for Covid-19 and was found to be carrying the variant. 

The government also on Monday confirmed an additional six cases of the English variant, which appears to transmit more easily.

Those cases traveled from the United Kingdom and tested positive at the airport upon their arrival in Japan between December 1 and 24. A total of 14 cases of the UK variant have now been detected in Japan. 

The announcement of the detection of the South Africa-linked variant comes after the Japanese government started banning the entry of non-resident foreign nationals on Monday following the discovery of the UK variant in Japan.

12:27 a.m. ET, December 29, 2020

Japan reports nearly 2,400 new Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Junko Ogura in Tokyo

Passengers sit in an almost empty arrival hall at Kansai International Airport on December 27 in Osaka, Japan.
Passengers sit in an almost empty arrival hall at Kansai International Airport on December 27 in Osaka, Japan. Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images

Japan reported 2,395 new coronavirus cases and 54 additional deaths Monday, according to a statement from the country's Ministry of Health. 

Of those, 481 were in the capital, Tokyo, where the total number of people infected with the virus since the start of the pandemic now stands at 57,040. 

It's the highest number of cases recorded in Tokyo on a Monday since the pandemic began. Japan typically records lower case numbers on Mondays as many medical facilities are closed over the weekends.

The total number of confirmed cases nationwide in Japan now stands at 223,832, while the death toll has reached 3,319.

While the latest national figures are down from a daily high reported on Friday, the Health Ministry said 661 patients were in a serious condition on Monday, two more than the previous day. 

PM's pledge: At a government coronavirus task force meeting Monday, Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pledged to make sure health care services are available to deal with Covid-19 infections during the year-end and New Year holidays.

"There is no holiday for (the) virus," he said.
12:02 a.m. ET, December 29, 2020

Chinese city where coronavirus first emerged launches emergency vaccine roll out

From CNN's Beijing bureau

Passengers walk on a platform after arriving at the railway station in Wuhan, China on December 28.
Passengers walk on a platform after arriving at the railway station in Wuhan, China on December 28. Roman Pilipey/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The Chinese city of Wuhan -- which reported the first cases of Covid-19 last year -- has begun rolling out emergency use vaccines, according to the local branch of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 

He Zhenyu, deputy director of the Wuhan CDC, made the announcement during a news conference on Monday.  

“Wuhan launched emergency use of Covid-19 vaccines beginning December 24 in 48 designated clinics in 15 districts in the city, targeting some key groups of people,” He said. 

People targeted by this vaccine campaign are between 18 to 59 years old, and will need to take two shots with a four-week interval, He added.

9:50 p.m. ET, December 28, 2020

Coronavirus has been with us for a year. Here's what we still don't know

From CNN's Julia Hollingsworth

When China first reported cases of coronavirus to the World Health Organization on December 31, 2019, it was described as a mysterious new strain of pneumonia. It didn't even have a name.

Within two weeks, Chinese scientists had identified the virus' genome sequence, the genetic code that makes up the virus. Within three weeks, the first test kits had been created and then shared by the WHO. And just over 11 months since the virus was reported to the WHO, the first people were vaccinated, making the shots the fastest vaccines ever developed.

The speed at which we've learned about coronavirus is unprecedented and scientists say we already know a remarkable amount.

But one year on, with more than 81 million reported infections and 1.7 million deaths around the world, there's still a lot we don't know about Covid-19.

Those unknowns range from the basics -- such as how the virus started -- to the more complicated questions, including how will this pandemic end?

Read the full story:

11:54 p.m. ET, December 28, 2020

US hits record number of Covid-19 hospitalizations

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

A nurse tends to a Covid-19 patient inside the intensive care unit of Providence St. Jude Medical Center on December 25 in Fullerton, California. 
A nurse tends to a Covid-19 patient inside the intensive care unit of Providence St. Jude Medical Center on December 25 in Fullerton, California.  Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

The United States reported 121,235 Covid-19 hospitalizations on Monday, setting a new record high since the pandemic began, according to the Covid Tracking Project (CTP).

This is the 27th consecutive day that the US has remained above 100,000 current hospitalizations.

According to CTP data, these days had the highest hospitalization numbers:

  • Dec. 28: 121,235 people hospitalized
  • Dec. 24: 120,151 people hospitalized
  • Dec. 23: 119,463 people hospitalized
  • Dec. 25: 118,948 people hospitalized
  • Dec. 27: 118,720 people hospitalized
7:49 p.m. ET, December 28, 2020

Novavax is testing its vaccine against UK coronavirus variant

From CNN's Elizabeth Cohen and Michael Nedelman

Biotech company Novavax -- which announced the launch of a phase 3 trial of its Covid-19 vaccine in the US on Monday -- confirmed it is also testing its vaccine against the UK strain of coronavirus that appears to transmit more easily.

"We are actively testing sera against the new UK strain,” the company said in a statement Monday, adding that “results will take several weeks.”

This will involve taking blood from trial participants who received the vaccine and checking to see if their antibodies neutralize the UK strain in the lab.

Novavax joins other pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer and Moderna, that are also testing their vaccines against this strain -- which has become widespread in the United Kingdom and has appeared in many other countries. The variant appears to be more transmissible, but there’s no indication it causes more severe disease. 

The statement noted there have been other coronavirus variants, and the company believes its vaccine will create an "immune response that covers these sequence variants and will be protective.”