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Coronavirus live updates: Fauci 'would not be surprised' if new variant is in US

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Ovidiu Dugulan/iStockBy ROSA SANCHEZ and EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now infected more than 77.2 million people worldwide and killed over 1.6 million of them, according to real-time data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Here’s how the news is developing Tuesday. All times Eastern:

Dec 22, 9:22 am
European Commission recommends end to UK travel ban

The European Commission is recommending an end to the United Kingdom’s travel ban in the wake of coronavirus cases in England linked to a new variant of the virus.

The Commission said, “while it is important to take swift temporary precautionary action to limit the further spread of the new strain of the virus and all non-essential travel to and from the UK should be discouraged, essential travel and transit of passengers should be facilitated. Flight and train bans should be discontinued given the need to ensure essential travel and avoid supply chain disruptions.”

Dec 22, 8:21 am
Fauci ‘would not be surprised’ if new variant is in US

Hours before getting vaccinated, Dr. Anthony Fauci told ABC News’ Good Morning America Tuesday, “I want to symbolize to people the importance that everyone gets vaccinated who can get vaccinated.”

Fauci will receive the Moderna vaccine, which the National Institutes of Health helped develop. Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is part of the NIH.

Fauci said the general population will likely start receiving vaccines at the end of March or beginning of April — but it’s unclear how long that process will take.

“It may take two, three, four months or more before you get everyone vaccinated that wants to be vaccinated,” Fauci said.

In the wake of an uptick in cases in England linked to a new COVID-19 variant, Fauci said he “would not be surprised” if the variant is in the U.S.

“When you have this amount of spread within a place like the U.K., you really need to assume that it’s here already. And certainly is not the dominant strain, but I would not be surprised at all if it’s already here,” he said.

The reproduction rate of the new variant is 0.4 higher than other known strains, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 technical lead, said Monday. That means the number of people an infected individual transmits to increases from 1.1 to 1.5 with the new variant.

There’s “zero evidence” that the new variant causes more severe disease, said Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme.

Dec 22, 5:10 am
BioNTech vaccine will likely work on UK variant, company’s CEO says

BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin is confident that the pharmaceutical company’s coronavirus vaccine will work against the new U.K. variant of the virus.

“We don’t know at the moment if our vaccine is also able to provide protection against this new variant,” Sahin told a news conference Tuesday, after the vaccine was approved for use in the European Union. “But scientifically, it is highly likely that the immune response by this vaccine also can deal with the new virus variants.”

He explained that the proteins on the U.K. variant are 99% the same as the ones on the original strain, so BioNTech has “scientific confidence” that its vaccine will be effective on the variant as well.

Still, more studies need to be done.

“But we will know it only if the experiment is done and we will need about two weeks from now to get the data,” Sahin said. “The likelihood that our vaccine works … is relatively high.”

Dec 22, 1:45 am
Over 60 arrested at superspreader events in LA County

Los Angeles officials arrested over 60 people involved in underground parties over the weekend.

In a statement, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said the parties were considered superspreader events, as they violated COVID-19 health protocols.

Around 10:45 p.m. Saturday, the Los Angeles Police Department responded to an underground party event in Los Angeles and found two people shot. One of the victims was pronounced dead at the scene, according to a statement from the LASD.
Then, at around 12:30 a.m. Sunday, officers responded to another underground party in Compton, where they arrested 67 people: 61 adults and six juveniles. One firearm was recovered.
A third underground party, located in Los Angeles, was shut down by the LAPD after a shooting took place.
“Sheriff Alex Villanueva has made it clear he will seek out and take law enforcement action against all underground party events occurring anywhere within Los Angeles County, who fall under the Health Orders of the County’s Department of Public Health,” the LASD said in their statement. “The goal of these enforcement actions is to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and the risk to our vulnerable populations.”

Dec 22, 1:09 am
Biden applauds COVID relief package but says more work is needed

President-elect Joe Biden has applauded the COVID-19 relief bill passed Monday by the House and Senate.

In a tweet early Tuesday morning, Biden voiced his approval of the package, but warned that Congress still has more work to do in the new year.

“I applaud this relief package, but our work is far from over. Starting in the new year, Congress will need to immediately get to work on support for our COVID-19 plan. My message to everyone out there struggling right now: help is on the way,” he tweeted.

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