December 22 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Adam Renton, Melissa Macaya and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, December 23, 2020
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2:11 a.m. ET, December 22, 2020

Americans' life expectancy was on the rise before the pandemic struck

From CNN Health’s Shelby Lin Erdman

A man walks through a COVID Memorial Project installation on the grounds of the Washington Monument in Washington, DC on September 22.
A man walks through a COVID Memorial Project installation on the grounds of the Washington Monument in Washington, DC on September 22. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Life expectancy in the United States was on the rise before the coronavirus pandemic struck, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics reported Tuesday.

For the second consecutive year, Americans’ life expectancy rose in 2019, according to the report “Mortality in the United States: 2019.”

That’s despite an increase in drug overdose deaths and a record high of 2.85 million deaths, 15,633 more than the total in 2018.

“The age-adjusted death rate for the entire U.S. population decreased by 1.2% from 723.6 deaths per 100,000 population in 2018 to 715.2 in 2019,” NCHS reported. 
“As a result, life expectancy at birth for the U.S. population increased 0.1 year from 2018 to 78.8 years in 2019.”
This was largely due to a decline in mortality from cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, influenza and pneumonia, suicide, and stroke, the report said. 

Life expectancy increased for both men and women. Men gained 0.1 year from 76.2 in 2018 to 76.3 in 2019, while women gained 0.2 years from 81.2 years in 2018 to 81.4 years in 2019, the report found.

Final life expectancy and death rate data for 2020 is not yet available, but will reflect the mortality toll from the pandemic, the CDC said. More than 319,000 people have died from coronavirus in the US.

1:49 a.m. ET, December 22, 2020

More than 18 million Covid-19 cases have been reported in the US

From CNN's Tina Burnside

Residents get tested for Covid-19 in a Wilmington, Delaware drive-thru testing facility on December 21.
Residents get tested for Covid-19 in a Wilmington, Delaware drive-thru testing facility on December 21. Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

The United States has reported at least 18,035,209 cases of coronavirus, including at least 319,364 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University's tally.

On Monday, Johns Hopkins reported 190,519 new cases and 1,696 additional deaths.

At least 4,624,325 vaccine doses have been distributed and at least 614,117 doses of the vaccine have been administered, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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:

1:36 a.m. ET, December 22, 2020

Taiwan reports first locally transmitted case in more than 250 days

From CNN Beijing bureau

A volunteer speaks through a megaphone to remind people to wear a mask while walking under Christmas decorations in New Taipei City, Taiwan on December 18.
A volunteer speaks through a megaphone to remind people to wear a mask while walking under Christmas decorations in New Taipei City, Taiwan on December 18. Ritchie B Tongo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Taiwan reported its first locally-transmitted Covid-19 case since April on Tuesday, breaking a run of more than 250 days without one, according to figures released by the island's Health Ministry.

The ministry said the case was a woman in her 30s who had contact with another positive case, a foreign pilot, between Dec. 8 and 12.

The island of 23 million people last reported a locally transmitted case on April 12.

Taiwan also reported three imported cases Tuesday, bringing its total Covid-19 infections since the pandemic began to 770. Just seven people have died from coronavirus in Taiwan.

On Monday, a top Taiwanese health official said the island would not consider banning flights from the UK after a new strain was detected because of sufficient preventative measures already in place, according to Taiwanese state media.

Taiwan's outbreak: Taipei's response to the coronavirus pandemic has been one of the world's most effective.

Taiwan has never had to enact strict lockdowns. Nor did it resort to drastic restrictions on civil freedoms, like in mainland China.

Instead, Taiwan's response focused on speed. Taiwanese authorities began screening passengers on direct flights from Wuhan, where the virus was first identified, on December 31, 2019 -- back when the virus was mostly the subject of rumors and limited reporting.

Taiwan confirmed its first reported case of the novel coronavirus on Jan. 21 and then banned Wuhan residents from traveling to the island. All passengers arriving from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao were required to undergo screening.

All this happened before Wuhan itself went into lockdown on Jan. 23. By March, Taiwan banned most foreign nationals from entering the island, apart from diplomats, residents and those with special entry visas.

7:30 a.m. ET, December 22, 2020

Dominican Republic and Guatemala ban flights from the UK over new Covid-19 variant

From CNN’s Tatiana Arias

The Dominican Republic will suspend all “aerial operations” between the island and the United Kingdom starting Monday until January 10, according to a statement published Monday by the country’s aviation authority.

This follows the UK identifying a new, potentially more contagious coronavirus variant linked to a recent surge in cases in England.

All other operations such as emergency flights, cargo and airmail will not be affected by the mandate, the Dominican Republic statement added.

Guatemalan health authorities announced on Monday that travelers who had visited the UK or any of the countries related to the new variant in the past 14 days were prohibited from entering the country.

Guatemala’s health minister said further details on the new restrictions for travelers from the UK will be announced Wednesday.

3:56 a.m. ET, December 22, 2020

Bangkok imposes new restrictions and screens foreign workers in bid to contain seafood market cluster

From CNN's Sandi Sidhu

Migrant workers have their temperature checked before being screened by members of the Health Department at a food market in Bangkok, Thailand on December 22.
Migrant workers have their temperature checked before being screened by members of the Health Department at a food market in Bangkok, Thailand on December 22. Diego Azubel/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Authorities in Thailand's capital Bangkok have announced a new set of measures to curb the spread of infections from an outbreak linked to a seafood market in neighboring Samut Sakhon province, according to the PR Thai Government verified Facebook account. 

Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) announced that Bangkok schools close to Samut Sakhon would close for 14 days from December 21. 

People who live in Samut Sakhon and commute to work in Bangkok have been ordered to work from home. Screening centers for foreign workers have been set up at four major roads into the city. 

The BMA has asked the public and businesses to refrain from organizing activities with large gatherings, including celebrations over the New Year holiday.

Hundreds of people -- many of them foreign migrant workers -- were infected at a Samut Sakhon seafood market. Officials have begun screening migrant workers in all fresh food markets in Bangkok and construction sites in the city.

"Migrant workers are not allowed to travel in or out of the province. Local people can travel to other provinces but have to report their destination to the authorities," Samut Sakhon's governor said on Monday. 

Thailand has been relatively effective at managing its coronavirus outbreak. In total, the country has reported nearly 5,300 cases and 60 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

12:46 a.m. ET, December 22, 2020

Seoul works to add more hospital beds for Covid-19 patients

From CNN's Jake Kwon and Paula Hancocks in Seoul

A makeshift medical facility using containers is installed on the grounds of the Seoul Medical Center in Seoul, South Korea, on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020.
A makeshift medical facility using containers is installed on the grounds of the Seoul Medical Center in Seoul, South Korea, on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The greater Seoul area has added 1,100 hospital beds and 112 intensive care unit (ICU) beds for Covid-19 patients since last week, Health Ministry official Yoon Tae-ho said in a briefing Tuesday.

This comes after two people with Covid-19 died while waiting for a hospital bed in Seoul city earlier this month.

Yoon added that the number of available ICU beds will increase this week as the patients are relocated and more wards are converted to ICU. 

There are 44 ICU beds available for Covid-19 patients nationwide and 10 in the Seoul metropolitan area as of Tuesday.

As of midnight, 248 patients in the Seoul metropolitan area had been waiting for more than a day for a bed. On December 17, this figure was at 595. Yoon said the situation is improving and expected to be resolved this week.

The situation in South Korea: More than 51,000 cases have been reported in the country, including 722 deaths.

12:37 a.m. ET, December 22, 2020

Malaysia signs agreement with AstraZeneca for 6.4 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN's Chandler Thornton

A fire and rescue department member helps disinfect the facilities at Zoo Negara, near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on December 19.
A fire and rescue department member helps disinfect the facilities at Zoo Negara, near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on December 19. Chong Voon Chung/Xinhua/Getty Images

Malaysia has signed an agreement with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca for 6.4 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said Tuesday, state news agency Bernama reported.

The country has now secured 40% of the supply needed to vaccinate its entire population of more than 32 million people.

Malaysia had previously signed agreements with COVAX and Pfizer for enough supply to vaccinate 30% of the population, according to Bernama.

The government is also negotiating with Sinovac, CanSino and Gamaleya to secure enough vaccines for 80% of the population -- or around 26.5 million people, Muhyiddin added in a video address. 

Vaccine timeline: The prime minister said the government expects 1 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be rolled out to target groups as early as February. Muhyiddin will be among the first individuals to receive Covid-19 vaccine injections, followed by frontline workers and high-risk groups, Bernama reported.

Malaysia has reported 95,327 total cases of Covid-19 and 438 deaths as of Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

12:27 a.m. ET, December 22, 2020

Trinidad and Tobago updates requirements for travelers coming from the UK

From CNN’s Tatiana Arias in Atlanta

The Ministry of Health of Trinidad and Tobago updated its health protocols on Monday for travelers coming into the islands from the UK due to the new coronavirus variant, according to a statement published by the ministry Monday.

The new guidance requires UK travelers to spend 14 days of mandatory quarantine in a “state supervised facility,” up from seven previously.

All travelers entering Trinidad and Tobago are still required to provide a negative PCR test completed within 72 hours prior to traveling, the statement says.

Several countries, including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Peru and Panama have already banned travel from the UK due to the new coronavirus variant.

12:10 a.m. ET, December 22, 2020

Congress approves long-awaited $900 billion Covid rescue package, overcoming months of gridlock

From CNN's Clare Foran and Manu Raju

The US Capitol in the late afternoon before lawmakers voted to pass a $900 billion coronavirus relief bill on December 21, in Washington, DC.
The US Capitol in the late afternoon before lawmakers voted to pass a $900 billion coronavirus relief bill on December 21, in Washington, DC. Cheriss May/Getty Images

Congress voted Monday evening to approve a far-reaching $900 billion Covid relief package that promises to accelerate vaccine distribution and deliver much-needed aid to small businesses hit hard by the pandemic, Americans who have lost their jobs during the economic upheaval and health care workers on the front lines of the crisis.

The White House has said that President Donald Trump will sign the legislation once it reaches his desk.

Final passage of the aid package came after Hill leaders announced Sunday evening they had finally reached a deal after months of bitter partisan stalemate and days of contentious negotiations that created uncertainty over whether an agreement could be reached at all or if talks would collapse. 

What the package includes: The rescue package, which was negotiated on a bipartisan basis, was combined with a massive $1.4 trillion government spending bill to fund federal agencies for the new fiscal year in a 5,593-page bill. 

It will include direct payments of up to $600 per adult, enhanced jobless benefits of $300 per week, roughly $284 billion in Paycheck Protection Program loans, $25 billion in rental assistance, an extension of the eviction moratorium and $82 billion for schools and colleges.

"We can finally report what our nation has needed to hear for a very long time: More help is on the way," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday night announcing the deal.

Opposition: A deal was reached only after both parties relinquished some of their key demands along the way to make it happen. 

Faced with Republican opposition, Democrats were forced to abandon a push for roughly $160 billion in aid to cash-strapped states and cities, while Republicans dropped a demand for liability protections after Democrats signaled that was a red line. 

Democrats are already signaling that they want to see more relief passed in the next session of Congress after President-elect Joe Biden takes office. 

"I consider this a first step and again, more needs to be done," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at a news conference Sunday evening. 

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