December 21 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Steve George, Meg Wagner and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, December 22, 2020
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7:51 a.m. ET, December 21, 2020

Here's what we know about the new Covid variation

The United Kingdom has detected a new variation of Covid-19 that England's chief medical officer says is more contagious than previous variants.

Professor Chris Whitty says “urgent work” is underway to rule out if the new strain, prevalent in the south east of England, can cause a higher mortality rate. 

“There is no current evidence to suggest the new strain causes a higher mortality rate or that it affects vaccines and treatments although urgent work is underway to confirm this,” he said in a statement.

Here's what else we know.

What we know about the variant:

  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the new variant could be up to 70% more transmissible than the old variant, although there is still "considerable uncertainty."

Where it's been detected:

  • The World Health Organization says the new variant has also been identified in Denmark, the Netherlands and Australia.
  • Australia said on Monday that it had detected two cases of the new variant in Australian quarantine facilities.

What other countries are doing in response:

  • More than a dozen countries are banning travel from the UK in response to the new variant.
  • Those countries include the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.
  • Other countries are imposing restrictions -- the Czech Republic has imposed a 10-day mandatory quarantine on anyone arriving from the UK.

12:01 a.m. ET, December 21, 2020

These countries have imposed restrictions on flights between the UK

A growing list of countries have issued travel restrictions following the United Kingdom's announcement that it is battling a new Covid-19 variation.

At least 20 countries have banned travel to or from the UK, while other countries have imposed additional restrictions on travelers from the UK.

Here are some of the latest countries to bring in restrictions:

  • Canada: Canada says it will ban most passenger travel from the UK beginning midnight Sunday for at least 72 hours. Canada does not have a ban on flights to the UK.
  • Argentina: According to a joint statement published Sunday by the Argentinian Health and Interior Ministries, Argentina will only allow one more flight from Britain to land at the international airport in Buenos Aires on Monday morning. Other direct flights to and from the UK have been canceled. 
  • Chile: The Chilean government announced on Twitter that all flights to and from the UK will be suspended, beginning on Tuesday, and that travelers who have been to the UK in the last 14 days would have to self-quarantine. 
  • Colombia: Colombian president Ivan Duque announced that all flights between Colombia and the UK will be suspended, starting on Monday. Travelers who have been to the UK in the last 14 days will also have to self-quarantine upon entering Colombia, Duque told reporters.
  • Iran: Iran announced the suspension of flights to and from the UK for two weeks on Sunday, according to state news agency IRNA, citing an official with the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development. Deputy Minister Shahram Adamnejad said Iran’s Ministry of Health and Medical Education has decided to “halt the flights between the two countries because of the spread of new variant of the Covid-19 disease in the United Kingdom,” IRNA reported.
  • Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia is suspending all international flights following news of the new coronavirus variant, according the Ministry of Interior, state news reported Sunday.
  • European countries: The Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Germany, Italy, France, Estonia, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Latvia are all suspending flights from the UK.