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UK needs tighter COVID-19 rules.

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Accessed on 29 December 2020, 2124 UTC, Post 851.

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DECEMBER 29, 2020

Reuters News Now

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS TODAY

UK needs tighter rules to avert new ‘catastrophe’
Britain’s government needs to bring in tighter lockdown rules to avert a fresh wave of deaths from a new strain of coronavirus, a leading epidemiologist and government advisor warned.

Britain reported 41,385 new cases on Monday, the highest number since testing became widely available in the middle of 2020, and English hospitals say they have more COVID patients than during the first wave of the pandemic in April.

“We are entering a very dangerous new phase of the pandemic, and we’re going to need decisive early national action to prevent a catastrophe in January and February,” said Andrew Hayward, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at University College London.

Renewed lockdowns likely in Southern California
The United States topped 19 million COVID cases on Monday as hospital intensive care units were full to overflowing across much of California, portending an extension of strict stay-at-home orders imposed this month.

California Governor Gavin Newsom said mandatory constraints on social gatherings and business activities would almost certainly be renewed for at least three more weeks in Southern California - encompassing the state’s biggest metropolitan areas - and its agricultural heartland, the San Joaquin Valley.

Newsom said a formal decision on continuing the stay-at-home orders, among the most stringent in the United States, would be announced on Tuesday.

Dutch death rate at highest level since WWII
The number of deaths in the Netherlands increased at the highest rate since World War Two this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Dutch national statistics office said on Tuesday.

Up to last week, around 162,000 deaths were reported in the country of 17 million this year, 13,000 more than would have been expected in a regular year.

Around 9,000 people more than normal died during the first wave of infections between early March and early May, while more than 6,000 extra fatalities have been reported since the start of the second wave mid-September.

First U.S. troops vaccinated in South Korea
American troops stationed in South Korea received the first doses of coronavirus vaccine to be administered in the country on Tuesday, as health officials in Seoul reported a daily record of 40 deaths amid a surge in new cases.

U.S. Forces Korea, which includes around 28,500 American military personnel as well as thousands of other workers and family members, gave the first doses to military and civilian healthcare workers and first responders in the force as well as top officers.

The vaccinations are voluntary, and will be provided to the rest of the military command as more supplies arrive, USFK’s commander, Gen. Robert Abrams, said.

Iran starts human testing of first domestic vaccine
Iran launched human trials of its first domestic COVID-19 vaccine candidate, state media reported, which Tehran says could help it defeat the pandemic despite U.S. sanctions interfering with its ability to import vaccines.

Setad, a giant state-affiliated conglomerate controlled by Iran’s supreme leader, said production of the vaccine developed by one of its companies, Shifa Pharmed, could reach 12 million doses per month, six months after a successful trial ends.

The first volunteers to take the vaccine were officials of the conglomerate and the daughter of its head, in an apparent effort to boost public confidence.

Track the global spread with our live interactive graphic 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.

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

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U.S.

An unusual battle in Congress over President Donald Trump’s demand for $2,000 coronavirus aid checks for Americans shifts to the Senate, where Republicans opposed to higher spending are under pressure to approve the additional relief. The Democratic-led House of Representatives on Monday approved the direct payments in a 275-134 vote.

President-elect Joe Biden said many of America’s security agencies had been “hollowed out” under President Trump and the lack of information being provided to his transition team by the outgoing administration was an “irresponsibility.” “We’ve encountered roadblocks from the political leadership at the Department of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget,” Biden said.

A federal judge ordered two Georgia counties to reverse a decision removing thousands of voters from the rolls ahead of Jan. 5 runoff elections that will determine which political party controls the U.S. Senate. The counties seemed to have improperly relied on unverified change-of-address data to invalidate registrations, the judge, Leslie Abrams Gardner, said in her order filed late on Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia.

American Airlines is set to restart U.S. Boeing 737 MAX commercial flights, another milestone for the U.S. planemaker as it tries to move past its deepest crisis in its 104-year history. The MAX was grounded in March 2019 for 20 months after two fatal crashes in five months killed 346 people. The grounding was lifted by the Federal Aviation Administration last month after Boeing agreed to software upgrades and new safeguards on a key flight control system linked to both fatal crashes.

SPECIAL REPORT

In June, the United States imposed sanctions on half a dozen oil tankers managed by established shipping firms. It was a major escalation of American attempts to choke off Venezuela’s oil trade. Within weeks, a little-known company based in the United Arab Emirates took over management of several tankers that had been shipping Venezuelan oil. The vessels got new names. And then they resumed transporting Venezuelan crude.

BUSINESS

A historic oil price collapse, with worries headed into 2021

This year was like no other for oil prices. Even as global prices end the year at about $51 a barrel, near the average for 2015-2017, it masks a year of volatility. In April, U.S. crude plunged deep into negative territory and Brent dropped below $20 per barrel, slammed by the COVID-19 pandemic and a price war between oil giants Saudi Arabia and Russia.

4 MIN READ

Trump administration bolsters order barring U.S. investment in Chinese firms

The Trump administration strengthened an executive order barring U.S. investors from buying securities of alleged Chinese military-controlled companies, following disagreement among U.S. agencies about how tough to make the directive.

4 MIN READ

Big tech bets and cryptocurrencies power 2020's top U.S. funds

Outsized bets on large U.S. technology companies and emerging cryptocurrencies fueled the year’s top-performing U.S. mutual fund and exchange-traded funds as the coronavirus pandemic upended global markets, while funds that bet on oil and gas companies fell nearly 100%, according to data from fund-tracker Morningstar.

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