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Congress approves $900 Billion COVID-19 relief package.

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DECEMBER 22, 2020

Reuters News Now

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS TODAY

Congress approves COVID-19 relief package
Congress approved an $892 billion coronavirus aid package, throwing a lifeline to the nation’s pandemic-battered economy after months of inaction, while also keeping the federal government funded.

President Donald Trump is expected to sign the package into law.

Following days of furious negotiation, both legislative chambers worked deep into the night to pass the bill - worth about $2.3 trillion including spending for the rest of the fiscal year - with the House of Representatives first approving it and the Senate following suit several hours later in a bipartisan 92-6 vote.

The virus relief bill includes $600 payments to most Americans as well as additional payments to the millions of people thrown out of work during the COVID-19 pandemic, just as a larger round of benefits is due to expire on Saturday.

Britain strives to lift France's freight ban
The United Kingdom was stuck in COVID-19 isolation after much of the world cut off travel ties due to a highly infectious new coronavirus strain, halting one of Europe’s most important trade routes just days before the Brexit cliff edge.

With queues of trucks snaking to the horizon in England and supermarket shelves stripped just days before Christmas, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson scrambled to get French President Emmanuel Macron to lift a ban on freight from Britain.

Johnson and his advisers said the mutated variant of the novel coronavirus, which could be up to 70% more transmissible, was spreading rapidly but that it had been identified because British scientists were so efficient at genomic surveillance.

U.S. could require negative COVID-19 tests for passengers from Britain
The U.S. government is considering requiring that all passengers traveling from the United Kingdom receive a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure as a condition of entry, airline and U.S. officials briefed on the matter said Monday.

A White House coronavirus task force discussed requiring pre-flight tests after a meeting on Monday regarding the emergence of a highly infectious new coronavirus strain in Britain that prompted dozens of countries to close their borders to Britain.

Airline and U.S. officials said requiring testing for UK arrivals won backing among task force members. The White House has yet to make a final decision on the matter, they said.

Confusion reigns as companies, industries try to navigate U.S. COVID-19 vaccine rollout
U.S. companies and industry groups trying to move their workers to the front of the line for a COVID-19 vaccine remain confused about conflicting state and local guidelines on how shots will be administered and to which workers, even as millions of doses make their way across the country.

An independent advisory panel to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday voted that 30 million essential workers are next in line for vaccines. Those vaccinations are expected to start in January or February.

While states often follow CDC guidelines, they generally have broad discretion when it comes to vaccine distribution.

Track the spread here.

Breakingviews - Corona Capital: Chinese workers, UniCredit CEO pay. China’s export boom runs into a human resources problem, and UniCredit’s departing Chief Executive Jean Pierre Mustier sets a high bar for low exit packages. Catch up with the latest financial insights here.

Reuters reporters and editors around the world are investigating the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

We need your help to tell these stories. Our news organization wants to capture the full scope of what’s happening and how we got here by drawing on a wide variety of sources.

Are you a government employee or contractor involved in coronavirus testing or the wider public health response? Are you a doctor, nurse or health worker caring for patients? Have you worked on similar outbreaks in the past? Has the disease known as COVID-19 personally affected you or your family? Are you aware of new problems that are about to emerge, such as critical supply shortages?

We need your tips, firsthand accounts, relevant documents or expert knowledge. Please contact us at coronavirus@reuters.com.

We prefer tips from named sources, but if you’d rather remain anonymous, you can submit a confidential news tip. Here’s how.

TOP STORIES

Where U.S. banks won and lost in the new pandemic relief package: The banking industry aggressively pushed for extra stimulus and a raft of other measures which would help shore up struggling borrowers and ultimately benefit the industry. Here is what’s in the package for banks.

Walk out of Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, across Manger Square and along Star Street and you come to a part of town where few pilgrims venture. Behind a discreet plaque saying ‘Crèche’ is a children’s home - the only one that many illegitimate and abandoned children brought up there have ever known. Run by Catholic nuns from the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul and Palestinian staff, it is a refuge for around 50 children, including those born out of wedlock, at risk of violence and even rescued from garbage bins.

Dozens of email accounts at the U.S. Treasury Department were compromised by the powerful hackers responsible for a wide-ranging espionage campaign against U.S. government agencies, the office of U.S. Senator Ron Wyden said. In a written statement, Wyden’s office said that Senate Finance Committee staff were briefed that the hack of the Treasury Department appears to have been a significant one, “the full depth of which isn’t known.”

South Korea said it had scrambled fighter jets in response to an intrusion into South Korea’s air defense identification zone by 19 Russian and Chinese military aircraft. Four Chinese warplanes entered the Korea Air Defense Identification Zone followed by 15 Russian aircraft, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

COVID SCIENCE

Oxygen level while walking identifies at-risk patients
It can be helpful to assess blood oxygen levels in patients when they are walking if that level is normal when they are sitting, a new study suggests. A low level of oxygen in the blood, or hypoxia, contributes to shortness of breath and worsening illness in patients with COVID-19.


Cancer patients should get vaccine priority
Cancer patients who get COVID-19 are at high risk for poor outcomes and should be considered for priority access to coronavirus vaccines, according to The American Association for Cancer Research COVID-19 and Cancer Task Force. The task force reviewed available data on fatality rates of patients with cancer who developed COVID-19 and based their recommendation on 28 publications.

BUSINESS

Exclusive-Airbus to lose over $5 billion in orders under AirAsia X's proposed restructuring

Aircraft manufacturer Airbus SE said it stands to lose more than $5 billion worth of aircraft orders if AirAsia X Bhd’s debt restructuring scheme goes through, court documents showed, joining more than a dozen creditors that have challenged the Malaysian low-budget carrier’s plan.

4 MIN READ

Ouster, maker of self-driving tech, agrees $1.9 billion deal to go public

Ouster, a U.S. startup that makes lidar sensors for self-driving cars and smart cities, said it has agreed to go public through a merger with special purpose acquisition company Colonnade Acquisition Corp.

3 MIN READ

Exclusive: Apple targets car production by 2024 and eyes 'next level' battery technology - sources

Apple is moving forward with self-driving car technology and is targeting 2024 to produce a passenger vehicle that could include its own breakthrough battery technology, people familiar with the matter told Reuters. The iPhone maker’s automotive efforts, known as Project Titan, have proceeded unevenly since 2014 when it first started to design its own vehicle from scratch.

2 MIN READ

TOP STORIES ON REUTERS TV

South Korea to shut down ski resorts

ASIA   1:26

U.S. ramps up vaccinations amid new U.K. fears

U.S.   2:16

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