Coronavirus live news: European countries ban UK travellers, Congress leaders agree $900bn aid deal

Coronavirus live news: European countries ban UK travellers, Congress leaders agree $900bn aid dealDecember 21, 2020

France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Ireland, Bulgaria impose UK bans over new strain; Democrat Chuck Schumer says aid bill ‘should’ have votes to pass. Follow latest updates

  • European states ban travel from UK as new Covid strain takes hold
  • What we know so far of UK travel bans
  • What do we know about the fast-spreading Covid variant in UK?
  • Moderna vaccine shipments begin as US reels under Covid surge
  • See all our coverage

The latest on the $900bn aid deal in the US now:

US congressional leaders reached agreement on Sunday on a $900 billion package to provide the first new aid in months to an economy and individuals battered by the surging coronavirus pandemic, with votes likely on Monday.

The package would be the second-largest economic stimulus in US history, following a $2.3 trillion aid bill passed in March. It comes as the pandemic accelerates, infecting more than 214,000 people in the country each day. More than 317,000 Americans have already died.

“At long last, we have the bipartisan breakthrough the country has needed,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor, following months of contentious debate.

Republican and Democratic leaders said the package should have enough support to pass both chambers of Congress.

President Donald Trump supports the bill and will sign it into law, White House spokesman Ben Williamson said.

The package would give $600 direct payments to individuals and boost unemployment payments by $300 a week. It also includes billions for small businesses, food assistance, vaccine distribution, transit and healthcare. It extends a moratorium on foreclosures and provides $25 billion in rental aid.

Congress aims to include the coronavirus aid package in a $1.4tn spending bill funding government programs through September 2021.

But government funding is due to expire at midnight Sunday (0500 GMT Monday). The House voted 329-65 to extend funding through Monday, buying more time to pass the coronavirus package and the larger government spending bill. The Senate must approve the temporary spending bill on Sunday, and Trump must sign it into law, to avoid disruption.

South Korea recorded its highest daily death toll from the coronavirus, health authorities said on Monday, as a surge in infections strains the health system and prompted police raids on venues suspected of violating social distancing rules, Reuters reports.

As of midnight Sunday, there were 24 additional deaths, bringing the country’s total to 698, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said.

There were a further 926 coronavirus cases, down from a record high 1,097 the day before.

The recent surge in cases has confounded efforts to contain it and the country is running short of hospital beds, prompting debate over whether the government should impose stricter social distancing measures.

As of Sunday, there were just four intensive care unit beds remaining in the greater Seoul area, according to health officials.

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