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Travellers walk with their luggage at King's Cross station, as EU countries impose a travel ban from the UK following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in London, Britain, December 21, 2020. - Sputnik International

Live Updates: Venezuela Bans Entry of All Travellers Who Visited UK Over New Strain of COVID-19

The global COVID-19 tally stands at 76,794,181 cases, with the United States leading the count (17.8 million). The global death toll has reached 1.692 million, according to Baltimore, Maryland's Johns Hopkins University, which tracks and compiles data from national and local authorities, the media and other sources.

A number of countries in the European Union and beyond began suspending travel with the United Kingdom on Sunday due to risks associated with the discovery of a new coronavirus strain there.

On Saturday, the UK government practically locked down parts of the country, including London, after admitting that more than half of all new COVID-19 cases had been caused by a mutated coronavirus strain that can transmit up to 70 percent faster. 

Meanwhile, the United States, India and Brazil lead in terms of the number of registered coronavirus infections. The largest number of COVID-19-related deaths has been observed in the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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Table of contents
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00:50 GMT 22.12.2020

BUENOS AIRES (Sputnik) - Panama is temporarily prohibiting people who have recently been to the United Kingdom or South Africa from entering the country, the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

"Due to the new variant of COVID19, the National Operation Center decided to suspend as of 11:59 p.m. today [04:59 GMT on Tuesday], temporarily, the entry into the country of those who have stayed or transited through the United Kingdom and the Republic of South Africa in the last 20 days," the ministry said on Twitter on Monday.

Panama citizens and residents arriving home must test for COVID-19 and are required to remain in quarantine until it is verified that they are not infected with the coronavirus, the ministry said in a statement released on its Twitter account.

00:11 GMT 22.12.2020

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - More than 700 new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Egypt over a 24-hour period, a record daily high since July 17, according to health ministry data.

"718 new positive coronavirus test results have been registered; in the past 24 hours, 32 people died from the [coronavirus] disease," Health Ministry Spokesman Khaled Mogahed said in a statement obtained by Sputnik.

On December 15, Egypt reported over 500 new coronavirus cases registered over a 24-hour period - a record high since July.

The last time the daily count of newly registered coronavirus cases in Egypt exceeded 500 was on July 25, after which the numbers started to decline.

The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Egypt has surpassed 126,000 while the country's death toll stands at over 7,100, according to the latest data from the country’s Health Ministry. More than 107,000 people have recovered from COVID-19 in Egypt.

23:58 GMT 21.12.2020

LONDON (Sputnik) - The British Royal Mail says it is halting deliveries to most of Europe and is suspending special delivery guarantees for some items as countries across the world are closing their borders to the UK because of the new strain of the coronavirus.

The Royal Mail said on Monday that it was temporarily suspending mail services to Europe, except for the Republic of Ireland due to restrictions in air, road, ferry and train movements from the UK.

Some changes to special delivery guarantees were also being made.

"In light of the changing coronavirus restrictions announced on Saturday 19th December 2020, we have made the difficult decision to make the following changes to our timed guarantees for our Special Delivery by 9am and 1pm services: for Special Delivery Guaranteed by 9.00am and Special Delivery Guaranteed by 1.00pm items posted on Wednesday 23rd December we are suspending our delivery guarantee," the Royal Mail said.

21:55 GMT 21.12.2020

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - US President-elect Joe Biden on Monday received his first dose of the coronavirus vaccine on live television to assure Americans that inoculations were safe.

"I am doing this to demonstrate that people should be prepared when it’s available to take the vaccine. There is nothing to worry about. I am looking forward for the second shot," Biden told reporters on Monday after receiving the vaccine.

Biden was accompanied by his wife Jill, who received a shot earlier on Monday.

Biden gave credit to the incumbent administration for fast-tracking vaccines development and distribution in the Operation Warp Speed. He also urged Amercans to keep wearing face masks and practice social distancing during the upcoming holidays. "If you don’t have to travel, don’t travel," Biden said.

21:02 GMT 21.12.2020

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Belgium has extended its ban on admitting people travelling directly from the United Kingdom, where a new strain of the coronavirus was reported, for another 24 hours, the VRT channel said on Monday, citing the local authorities.

The country banned travel from the UK on Sunday.

In addition, only people with Belgian residency will be allowed to enter the country from December 23-31. They will have to quarantine for seven days, according to the broadcaster.

20:55 GMT 21.12.2020

CARACAS (Sputnik) - The Venezuelan authorities have banned entry to anyone who has recently been to the United Kingdom amid fears of the spreading of the recently discovered mutated COVID-19 variant, Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said on Monday.

"There is a situation in Europe related to the new strain of coronavirus identified in the UK ... President Nicolas Maduro immediately banned people who visited the UK from entering our country", Rodriguez said.

20:44 GMT 21.12.2020
19:49 GMT 21.12.2020

BRUSSELS (Sputnik) - The coronavirus pandemic in Europe may be brought under control by the end of 2021, but this will depend, among other things, on the pace of vaccination, according to the materials of the European Commission.

To suppress the pandemic, it is necessary that about 70 percent of the population have protection against the virus, for example, due to vaccination, the commission said.

19:43 GMT 21.12.2020
19:39 GMT 21.12.2020

LONDON (Sputnik) - The new strain of COVID-19 that was recently discovered in the United Kingdom may be more contagious for children than the one that triggered the pandemic earlier this year, Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London, a member of the government's New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG), said on Monday.

"There are other epidemiologically interesting trends with virus, there is a hint that it has a higher propensity to infect children … but we haven’t established any sort of causality on that, but we can see that in the data", Ferguson said at a NERVTAG Q&A briefing, as quoted by the Evening Standard newspaper.

19:22 GMT 21.12.2020

TORONTO (Sputnik) - The Canadian province of Ontario will go into a lockdown effective December 26 amid a steady rise in new novel coronavirus cases, Premier Doug Ford announced on Monday.

"Ontario will enter a province-wide shutdown starting at 12:01 am [5:01 am GMT] on 26th December", Ford said during a press briefing.

Ford explained that the lockdown is necessary to avoid overwhelming the public health system.

Ontario is logging over 2,000 cases daily and new projections indicate the province could see over 6,000  cases by January if current trends continue.

19:18 GMT 21.12.2020
18:49 GMT 21.12.2020

The US top infectious diseases expert, Anthony Fauci, warned against 'overreacting' to a new strain of coronavirus discovered in the UK and some other European countries.

"Follow it carefully, but don't overreact to it," Fauci told CNN on Monday. 


18:29 GMT 21.12.2020

The Czech government will roll out the mass coronavirus vaccination program in February, although care home patients and hospitalized elderly citizens will be injected as early as next month, the prime minister said on Monday.

The European Medicines Agency recommended authorization for the Pfizer/BioNTech shot in EU countries earlier in the day, clearing the way for mass vaccinations.

"We are waiting for the approved vaccine… to arrive in the Czech Republic late on December 26. We are talking about 9,750 doses. We hope to import another 19,500 doses by the end of the month," Andrej Babic said.

People aged 65 and over and younger citizens with underlying medical conditions will be first in line to get a shot when the mass vaccination begins.

Babic said that his government had a contract for 4 million doses and was negotiating additional supplies. Minister of Health Jan Blatny said the plan was to immunize 1.1 million people from January-March. The central European country has a population of 10.7 million.

18:20 GMT 21.12.2020

The mutated strain of the novel coronavirus detected in the United Kingdom shows no evidence of being more pathogenic, Operation Warp Speed chief advisor Moncef Slaoui said during a press briefing on Monday.

"There is no evidence, now it's clear because there's a large number of people infected, there's no evidence that this virus is more pathogenic, creates more problems... than the previous virus," Slaoui said.

The discovery of the new, more infectious novel coronavirus strain in the United Kingdom prompted many countries to temporarily shut their borders.

Earlier on Monday, US Assistant Health Secretary Brett Giroir said the United States has not ruled out imposing a temporary travel ban on the United Kingdom in response to the mutated novel coronavirus spreading throughout the country.

According to UK experts, the new strain can transmit up to 70 percent faster than the original coronavirus, albeit the data is lacking on whether or not it is more deadly.

17:20 GMT 21.12.2020
17:18 GMT 21.12.2020
16:52 GMT 21.12.2020

Relief funds are expected to go out to Americans by next week once Congress ratifies the latest COVID-19 stimulus package agreed to by lawmakers, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in an interview on Monday.

"We couldn’t be more pleased that we got this done in time for the end of the year," Mnuchin told CBNC. "We’ll be sending out next week direct deposits and I expect we’ll get the money out by the beginning of next week. Twenty four hundred dollars for a family of four, much needed relief, just in time for the holidays."

Over the weekend, lawmakers agreed to a $900 billion relief package, which is the second package after the $3 trillion passed in March under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Negotiations over the second package were held up for months as Republicans and Democrats disagreed over the details and size of the deal.

Mnuchin said the measure, which Congress will be voting on later on Monday and is expected to be signed by President Donald Trump, will include $325 billion for small businesses.

More than 21 million Americans lost their jobs between March and April, at the height of lockdowns and other restrictive measures imposed due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. A rebound of 2.5 million jobs was logged in May and 4.8 million in June, before the recovery began slowing. For both September and October, less than 700,000 jobs were added each month. In November, there were 245,000 additions.

The US economy shrank by 5 percent in the first quarter of 2020 and a record 31.4 percent in the subsequent three months before rebounding by 33.1 percent in the third quarter.

16:46 GMT 21.12.2020
16:31 GMT 21.12.2020
16:08 GMT 21.12.2020
15:50 GMT 21.12.2020
15:45 GMT 21.12.2020
15:38 GMT 21.12.2020
15:37 GMT 21.12.2020

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Monday that he will receive a COVID-19 vaccine shot on Sunday, the day the mass vaccination campaign rolls out in the country.

"I have pledged to get the vaccine on the first day it becomes available in Greece", Mitsotakis said during a meeting with President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, as quoted by the Ekathimerini newspaper, adding that the vaccine has been approved by all the competent authorities.

According to the prime minister, with the start of the vaccination, the biggest challenge would be to convince the public that the vaccine is safe.

In a bid to boost public confidence in COVID-19 vaccines, as mass vaccination campaigns start across the world, several world leaders have been already vaccinated. Among the latest examples is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who on Saturday got vaccinated against the coronavirus disease with a Pfizer-BioNTech shot on a live TV broadcast.

15:36 GMT 21.12.2020

At least 40.5 percent of Spaniards are ready to receive vaccine against COVID-19 immediately, the Spanish Sociological Research Centre said on Monday.

According to the centre, about 28 percent of respondents do not want to be vaccinated immediately, representing a 19-percent decrease compared to data for the previous month.

More than 16 percent of the respondents are ready to receive vaccine if the vaccine is reliable and its efficacy has been proved. This data is almost 16 times higher than in November, when only 1.4 percent of Spaniards were prepared to be inoculated under such conditions.

The poll was conducted between 1 and 9 December among 3,817 people.

On 27 December, Spain will start vaccination against COVID-19 and it will be free and voluntary. The first people to receive the vaccine will be elderly people in nursing homes and medical personnel.

15:24 GMT 21.12.2020
15:00 GMT 21.12.2020

Israeli Health Ministry said on Monday that about 10,000 medical workers had been vaccinated against COVID-19 on Sunday, the day the mass vaccination programme officially started in the country, media reported.

According to Haaretz, the health authorities are expected to increase the rate of vaccinations, including vulnerable groups and those over 60.

On Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu became the first Israeli national to get vaccinated against the coronavirus disease.

A day after his inoculation, Netanyahu said that he was feeling fine.

The first shipments of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine arrived in Israel last week. In total, the Israeli government has signed a deal for 8 million doses. Israel has also concluded deals with other companies developing vaccine candidates, including US firm Moderna.

Clinical trials for Israel's domestically produced vaccine against COVID-19 began in early November. On December 14, it successfully completed the first phase of the trials.

14:58 GMT 21.12.2020

BERLIN (Sputnik) - Bavarian Minister President Markus Soeder said on Monday he would be working remotely after his chief of staff tested positive for coronavirus.

"As a first-tier contact person I have immediately self-quarantined. I will continue to carry out my duties digitally", Soeder tweeted.


Florian Herrmann said earlier he had caught the virus and was doing fine, given the circumstances. The leader of Bavaria's ruling Christian Social Union wished him "a speedy recovery."

14:24 GMT 21.12.2020

"There is still new information coming in, and it needs to be fully assessed, such as the recent reports on the new variant and these are issues that need to be fully scientifically assessed. At the moment we can say that there is no evidence to suggest that the vaccine will not work against the new variant", Cooke told a press conference.

14:14 GMT 21.12.2020
14:14 GMT 21.12.2020
14:10 GMT 21.12.2020

"I m delighted to be here and to announce that the EMA scientific committee met today and recommended conditional marketing authorisation in the EU for the vaccine developed by the BioNTech and Pfizer", Cooke told a press conference.

14:03 GMT 21.12.2020
13:18 GMT 21.12.2020

The European Union will pay 15.5 euros ($18.9) per dose of a vaccine against the coronavirus, produced by Pfizer and BioNTech, less than what the companies reportedly charged in the US, Reuters reported on Monday, citing an internal EU document dated 18 November.

The EU announced a deal with US pharma giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech to supply member states with vaccine doses on 11 November.

According to the agency, the price negotiated by the bloc for 300 million vaccine doses is slightly lower than what the United States agreed to pay ($19.5) for the first shipment of 100 million doses.

Last week, Eva De Bleeker, Belgium’s state secretary for budget, tweeted a price table for COVID-19 vaccines that said that the one developed by BioNTech/Pfizer costs 12 euros ($14.68) per dose. The official had promptly removed her tweet while Pfizer announced that the price was confidential.

The European Medicines Agency is expected to approve the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in the EU during a meeting on Monday.

13:10 GMT 21.12.2020

The World Health Organization (WHO) advises countries to independently assess the risk of spillover of the new strain of coronavirus and make decisions on whether to suspend air traffic, WHO representative to Russia, Melita Vujnovic said on Monday.

Last week, the UK government announced that the mutated coronavirus strain that can transmit up to 70-percent faster has been actively spreading in London and surrounding areas. Dozens of countries have already suspended air traffic with the United Kingdom.

"At this point, the World Health Organization has not recommended any time frames or anything else [regarding border closures or air traffic suspension]. The WHO has recommended [countries] to analyze the risk of importing the infection and proceeding from this make individual, national decisions," Vujnovic told Rossiya 24 broadcaster.

The same contagious mutation of the virus has also been detected in several other European countries, Australia and South Africa.

12:50 GMT 21.12.2020

The Health Minister of the Indian state of Karnataka, Dr. K. Sudhakar has warned the public that strict action will be taken against hotels, party halls and organisers who allow mass gatherings for Christmas and New Year.

With a new strain of coronavirus triggering panic, he appealed to people on Twitter to continue wearing masks and observe all Covid-19 guidelines.

12:26 GMT 21.12.2020

With New Year’s Eve fast approaching amid panic being triggered due to the new strain of Covid-19, Indian State Chief Ashok Gehlot on Monday appealed to the people to celebrate the occasion at home with their families. He urged them not to light firecrackers and to avoid mass gatherings.

After chairing a meeting to take stock of preparedness for the coronavirus vaccination programme, he took to Twitter and wrote, "Rajasthan will strictly implement COVID-19 guidelines issued by the Supreme Court for all states."

12:10 GMT 21.12.2020
12:06 GMT 21.12.2020
12:04 GMT 21.12.2020

The second coronavirus wave is still present in France, as the continuous trend of drop in COVID-19 cases has halted, French Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Monday.

The peak of the second COVID-19 outbreak in France is believed to have been reached on November 7, when nearly 87,000 fresh cases were detected in a day. The declining trend had been ongoing since late November, but daily numbers of infections have been on the rise since mid-December, showing over 10,000 new cases per day.

"The epidemic situation in France remains fragile because the virus is still circulating too much and it is no longer declining. The sanitary pressure remains high. The 2nd wave is not yet behind us," Veran wrote on Twitter.

Following the second nationwide lockdown relief, the national authorities have replaced it with a general night curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. to prevent a surge in COVID-19 cases during the holiday celebrations.

As of Monday, France has reported nearly 2,530,000 coronavirus infections and 60,665 related fatalities.

11:40 GMT 21.12.2020

The Russian public health watchdog, Rospotrebnadzor, keeps following genetic mutations of the coronavirus both in the country and abroad, and is ready to implement measures if needed, the coronavirus response centre said on Monday.

"Rospotrebnadzor continues following genetic mutations of the new coronavirus on the Russian territory and across the world, which may have influence on the possibility to identify the pathogen, and on COVID-19 treatment and prevention. Additional measures will be implemented if need arises," the response centre said.

11:33 GMT 21.12.2020
11:27 GMT 21.12.2020
11:00 GMT 21.12.2020
11:00 GMT 21.12.2020

he first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech will be delivered to Oman on Wednesday, the director of the infectious diseases control department of the country's health ministry, Badr bin Saif Al Rawahi, announced on Monday.

"The first batch of the COVID-19 vaccine will be delivered to the Sultanate on coming Wednesday," Al Rawahi said, as quoted by the department, on Twitter.

According to the senior health official, Oman has sought to create consultative communication channels with a number of scientific institutions and international organizations and also was in direct talks with some companies, which enabled the nation to be among the first ones to obtain the vaccine.

"The ministry has formulated a vaccination strategy to cover 60 percent of the population, which is divided into phases, and the first one starts with 20 percent due to the limited supply at the current period," Al Rawahi added.

High-risk groups of people, including frontline medical workers, as well as individuals suffering from chronic diseases and elderly persons are set to be inoculated during the first stage.

The vaccine will be administered in two doses, with the second one being given after a 21-day period, the official noted, adding that the vaccination centers will be named in the next few days.

Earlier in the month, the Omani Ministry of Health issued a license to import the Pfizer vaccine and allowed its use for people over the age of 16.

Last week, Saudi Arabia became the first Arab country to start a nationwide vaccination campaign with the Pfizer/BioNtech shot.

To date, Oman has registered 127,667 cases of the novel coronavirus, with 1,488 deaths and around 120,000 recoveries.

10:52 GMT 21.12.2020
10:20 GMT 21.12.2020

A Europe-wide protocol on resumption of travel with the United Kingdom, which was suspended by many countries after a new coronavirus strain discovery, will be set up in a few hours, French Secretary of State for Transport Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said Monday.

"In the next few hours, we will establish a sanitary protocol on the European level so that travel with the United Kingdom could resume," the official tweeted.

10:08 GMT 21.12.2020

The Indian stock markets crashed from their peak on Monday as the new strain of Coronavirus in the UK forced its government to impose lockdown restrictions. India's benchmark index of the Bombay Stock Exchange, Sensex, fell 1,406 points to end the day at the 45,553 level. The National Stock Exchange's Nifty plummeted 478 points.

09:49 GMT 21.12.2020
09:17 GMT 21.12.2020
08:26 GMT 21.12.2020
08:10 GMT 21.12.2020
08:08 GMT 21.12.2020

Russia has registered a new single-day record of 29,350 COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, down from 28,948 the day before, bringing the total to 2,877,727, the federal response centre said on Monday.

The previous record of 29,039 cases was reported on 6 December.

"Over the past 24 hours, 29,350 coronavirus cases were confirmed in 84 regions, including 5,792 cases (19.7 percent) without clinical symptoms," the centre said, adding that the cumulative case count has now reached 2,877,727, with the rate of increase at 1 percent.

Moscow has confirmed 7,797 new coronavirus cases over the given period, up from 7,263 the day before. The Russian capital was followed by St. Petersburg with 3,752 cases, down from 3,759 the day before, and the Moscow region with 1,523 new cases, down from 1,539 the day before.

No new cases were registered in the Chukotka Autonomous Region.

The response centre reported 493 coronavirus fatalities, down from 511 the day before, raising the country's death toll to 51,351.

Total recoveries count 2,295,362 after 19,705 people were discharged from hospitals over the past day, down from 20,915 the day before.

According to the national public health watchdog, Rospotrebnadzor, over 86.3 million tests to detect COVID-19 have been conducted in Russia since the beginning of the pandemic, and 629,889 suspected carriers remain under medical monitoring.

08:05 GMT 21.12.2020
08:00 GMT 21.12.2020

There is no evidence that the new version of the coronavirus has a more adverse affect on mortality than other strains, said Melita Vujnovich, a representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Russia.

"Now there is no evidence, there is not enough data to say that it affects the very pathogenicity, severe morbidity, mortality. There is no such data, this is not visible now," Vuinovich told Rossiya-24.

07:49 GMT 21.12.2020
07:47 GMT 21.12.2020

"It is entirely possible that the virus is circulating in France," French health minister Olivier Veran said.

07:17 GMT 21.12.2020
06:54 GMT 21.12.2020

 The Qatari Ministry of Public Health late on Sunday issued an approval of the COVID-19 vaccine by Pfizer and BioNTech for emergency use, the QNA state media reported.

The Gulf nation is set to receive the first batch of the vaccine on Monday, the news agency said on Twitter, adding that the decision follows the vaccine's approvals in other countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. The Omani Ministry of Health issued a license to import the vaccine to start a nationwide vaccination campaign.

Qatar's neighbors, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain, authorized the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use earlier in December.

The Pfizer vaccine is the second one allowed to be administered in Qatar. A supply agreement with US biotechnology company Moderna for its vaccine was signed in late October.

In mid-November, Pfizer announced that its COVID-19 candidate vaccine, developed jointly with German company BioNTech, concluded phase 3 clinical trials, with a declared efficacy level of 95 percent.

As of now, the Qatari health authorities has confirmed 142,001 cases of the novel coronavirus, with 243 fatalities and around 140,000 recoveries.

06:54 GMT 21.12.2020
05:41 GMT 21.12.2020
05:30 GMT 21.12.2020
05:23 GMT 21.12.2020

Canada is suspending air travel from the United Kingdom starting Monday, following the discovery of a new coronavirus strain in the UK.

"Given the high number of cases of a variant COVID-19 virus observed in some areas in the United Kingdom, the decision has been made to suspend entry into Canada of all commercial and private passenger flights from the United Kingdom for 72 hours, effective midnight tonight," the Canadian government said in a Sunday statement.

According to the release, as before, all passengers arriving in Canada are required to self-isolate for two weeks.

"Additionally, passengers who arrived in Canada today from the United Kingdom are now subject to secondary screening and enhanced measures, including increased scrutiny of quarantine plans. Passengers who arrived recently from the United Kingdom will also receive additional direction from the Government of Canada," the Sunday statement says.

On Saturday, UK health officials announced that the country had identified a new variant of the coronavirus that is 70 percent more transmissible than other Sars-Cov-2 virus strains.

The UK government practically locked down parts of the country, including London, after admitting that more than half of all new COVID-19 cases had been caused by the new strain.

As UK citizens rushed out of the locked down areas ahead of Christmas, many countries chose to close borders with the whole of the United Kingdom in a bid to prevent the import of the new virus strain.

The new coronavirus variant, which infects more easily but does not appear to be more deadly or pose any concerns for vaccines, has also been detected in the Netherlands, Denmark, South Africa and Australia.

05:06 GMT 21.12.2020
04:33 GMT 21.12.2020
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