International update: Global Covid infections near 77 million – new variant prompts travel restrictions

21st December 2020 (Last Updated December 21st, 2020 11:44)

21 December

Global: Global coronavirus infections pass 76.9 million. Meanwhile, the global coronavirus death toll has passed 1,693,000 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

US: Covid-19 infections have passed 17.8 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 317,670 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

Amazon.com Inc. has closed a warehouse in northern New Jersey until 26 December after more of its workers tested positive for coronavirus without showing symptoms, CNBC reported, citing a notice sent to employees. Amazon spokesperson Lisa Levandowski confirmed in a statement to CNBC that employees at the facility will be paid for any shifts missed during shutdown. She declined to comment on the total number of cases found.

France: Deaths linked to the coronavirus rose by 131 to 60,549 on Sunday, the smallest increase since 25 October. The country registered 12,799 new cases, with the pace of infections increasing for the fifth straight day. Hospitalizations and patients in intensive care increased, after falling for most of the past week.

Italy: Italy has reported352 coronavirus-related deaths on Sunday, down from yesterdays 553, the health ministry has said.

South Korea: South Korea reported 926 new Covid cases in 24 hours, dropping below 1,000 for the first time in a week, according to data from the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency’s website.

UK: The UK reported 35,928 cases of Covid-19 on Sunday, the most for a day since the pandemic began and more than 10,000 above the weekly average. Fatalities, often lower on weekends due to reporting delays, were 326, less than the trailing seven-day average

US: The US has administered more than half a million Covid-19 vaccine doses in the first week of the country’s mass inoculation campaign, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Sunday. The elderly and front-line essential workers, including firefighters, teachers and grocery store workers, should be next in line for coronavirus vaccines, an advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted on Sunday.

Covid-19 immunizations with the newly-authorized Moderna Inc. shot are likely to begin Monday morning, said Moncef Slaoui, head of the US government’s vaccine drive. Operation Warp Speed plans call for 5.9 million doses of the Moderna vaccine and 2 million doses of the Pfizer Inc./BioNTech SE vaccine to ship on Monday, Slaoui said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

New Covid variant updates

France: Has announced a 48-hour travel suspension from the UK from midnight on Sunday because of the new strain of Covid-19. The UK transport secretary said it was expected to cause “significant disruption”.

Ireland: Will suspend flights from Britain from midnight on Sunday until Tuesday, following a cabinet review.

Germany: Has announced a travel suspension until 31 December from the UK. Exemptions to the ban are the repatriation of aeroplanes and their crews, alongside, flights with medical personnel. Israel is barring entry to non-citizens arriving from the UK, Denmark, and South Africa to avoid importing the new virus mutation.

Israel: Israeli citizens arriving from UK, Denmark, and South Africa will need to isolate for 14-days.

Bulgaria: Will suspend all flights to and from the UK from midnight tonight until 31 January, reports Reuters. The government had initially decided on a 10-day quarantine but has now opted for the temporary suspension.

Canada: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government suspended flights between Canada and the UK for 72 hours effective midnight Sunday due to “the high number of cases of a variant Covid-19 virus observed in some areas in the United Kingdom.”

Turkey: Temporarily halted flights from the UK, Denmark, the Netherlands and South Africa after the UK government warned that a new, fast-spreading strain of the coronavirus was “out of control,” Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said in a Twitter post. Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for the suspension in coordination with the Transportation Ministry, Koca said. He didn’t elaborate on the time frame.

Italy: The health ministry said a patient who entered the country in recent days from the UK was diagnosed with the new virus variant. The person and his close contacts are in isolation and followed all protocols, the ministry said in a press release.

US: The US doesn’t need to suspend flights from the UK because of the coronavirus mutation that helped prompt an emergency lockdown for London, a member of the White House virus task force said. “I really don’t believe we need to do that yet,” Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.

Lockdown updates

Indonesia: The capital has extended its virus restrictions by another two weeks as cases continue to rise and to prevent any further spikes from the holiday season. Jakarta, which is home to more than 10 million people, will keep capacity and operation limits for offices, restaurants and shopping malls under its so-called transition phase, according to a statement from the local government.

Colombia: The capital Bogota will return to partial mobility restrictions where citizens are only allowed to buy staples, go to restaurants, shopping malls, among other spots, depending on the last digit of their ID, Mayor Claudia López said in a video posted on Twitter. The new measures will take place from Monday.

Australia: Christmas travel plans have been hit hard by a new outbreak in the country’s biggest city, Sydney. Authorities in New South Wales, the country’s most populous state, of which Sydney is the capital, are concerned over the possible scale of infections after a new outbreak on the city’s northern beaches was discovered last week.

UK: Britain’s biggest port stopped all traffic heading to Europe and food supplies into the nation face major disruption after the discovery of a new variant of the Covid-19 virus prompted its nearest neighbours to limit travel links with the UK. The crisis prompted Prime Minister Boris Johnson to convene a meeting of the government’s emergency committee on Monday in a bid to keep goods flowing. Further meetings are happening Sunday evening and Monday morning “to ensure robust plans are in place,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement.

Economy updates

US: Congressional leaders have reached agreement on a $900 billion package to provide the first new aid in months to an economy hammered by the coronavirus pandemic, the Senate’s top Republican and Democrat said on Sunday, but it remained unclear when Congress would vote to seal the deal.