The House of Representatives passed a bill replacing the $600 stimulus checks in the newly enacted virus relief bill with $2,000 payments, as Democrats and moderate Republicans voted in favor of a proposal backed by President Donald Trump.

Covid-19 hospitalizations in the U.S. reached new highs, testing the nation’s health-care workforce, as officials warned of a post-Christmas surge in infections. In Southern California, health officials plan to extend a regional stay-at-home order.

South Korea’s daily toll of fatalities rose to a record, while Thailand reported its first virus death since November. China added 15 locally transmitted cases, and a cluster in Sydney’s Northern Beaches grew.

  • Global Tracker: Cases pass 81.2 million; deaths surpass 1.77 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 4.6 million shots given
  • U.S. Hot Spots: Surge sidelines health workers when they’re needed
  • China’s struggling to get the world to trust its vaccines
  • California Uber drivers, teachers vie for Covid vaccine priority
  • Covid’s devastation reflected in the breadth of one family’s loss

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U.S. House Backs $2,000 Checks; China Cases Rise: Virus Update

China Outbreak Grows (9 a.m. HK)

China reported 15 new locally transmitted cases Tuesday, seven of which were detected in Beijing. All of the capital’s new infections, according to the municipal health commission, were close contacts of previous cases in the most recent flareup, and reside in the northeastern district of Beijing of Shunyi where the Capital International Airport is located. Two of the confirmed patients are drivers for ride-hailing apps, raising the risk that the cluster — which now stands at 17 — could continue to grow.

Authorities have tested hundreds of thousands of people in Beijing and advised limits on large-scale gatherings in a bid to quash the outbreak, the capital’s first since a resurgence in June. The remaining eight new cases publicized Tuesday were in the northeastern province of Liaoning.

South Korea Daily Death Toll Hits Record (8:44 a.m. HK)

South Korea’s coronavirus fatalities rose by 40 to 859, the biggest daily increase on record, according to data from the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency’s website.

The country reported 1,046 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours compared with 808 the previous day, led by Seoul. The total tally rose to 58,725.

Sydney Cluster Grows (8:15 a.m. HK)

The cluster of Covid-19 infections that’s thrust 250,000 people in Sydney’s Northern Beaches into lockdown has grown to 129 cases, authorities said Tuesday.

Three new cases were recorded overnight, New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters, and urged people to get tested with even the mildest of symptoms. “We are in a very critical phase,” she said. “We do not want people to think we’re out of the woods.”

Saudi Arabia to Get 3 Million Vaccine Doses (7:40 a.m. HK)

Saudi Arabia expects to receive 3 million doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine by the end of May 2021, al-Arabiya reported, citing unidentified officials at the country’s health ministry.

The country is also expected to approve other vaccines after conducting tests, according to the report. Pfizer will supply Saudi Arabia 1 million doses of the vaccine by the end of February.

House Backs Trump on $2,000 Checks (7:26 a.m. HK)

The House on Monday passed a bill replacing the $600 stimulus checks in the newly enacted virus relief bill with $2,000 payments, as Democrats and moderate Republicans voted in favor of a proposal backed by President Donald Trump.

The bill cleared the chamber on a 275 to 134 vote, reaching the two-thirds majority needed for the expedited procedure used Monday. It now heads to the Senate where it will create a political dilemma for Republicans. Many of them previously opposed stimulus payments larger than the $600 in the existing law, in part over concerns about the price tag. But Trump’s stamp of approval still has sway with GOP voters.

Southern California May Extend Lockdown (4:55 a.m. HK)

Health officials on Tuesday likely will announce an extension of the regional stay-at-home order in place for Southern California as a surge in cases has overwhelmed hospitals and left few, if any, intensive-care unit beds left available, Governor Gavin Newsom said.

U.S. House Backs $2,000 Checks; China Cases Rise: Virus Update

Los Angeles County has been seeing 12,000 to 15,000 new cases per day over the past few weeks, Newsom said Monday.

Newsom said more than 261,672 vaccine doses have been administered in California so far. He said that by end of this week, the state should have received all 904,000 Moderna vaccine doses and 858,000 Pfizer doses the state was expecting by this point.

South Africa Renews Ban on Alcohol (3:30 a.m. HK)

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a renewed ban on alcohol sales and extended a curfew in a bid to contain the fallout from a second wave of coronavirus infections that have pushed the cumulative caseload past the 1 million mark.

Spain’s Deaths Top 50,000 (2:30 a.m. HK)

Spain on Monday became the fourth European nation to record more than 50,000 coronavirus deaths.

Fatalities from the disease reached 50,122, according to Health Ministry figures. A total of 408 people have died from the virus in the past week. Cases diagnosed over the past 24 hours fell to 2,822.

Spain is one of the countries in Europe to be hit hardest by the pandemic. The government imposed a national state of emergency and a strict nationwide lockdown from March to June to slow the spread of the virus, with management of the pandemic in the hands of regional governments since the end of the lockdown.

N.Y. Threatens $1 Million Fines (1:20 a.m. HK)

Health-care providers in New York that violate vaccine laws could be fined as much as $1 million and have their licenses revoked, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday.

Cuomo said he’ll sign an executive order increasing penalties for those engaging in fraud with the Covid-19 vaccine. The move comes as the state investigates reports that ParCare Community Health Network in Orange County improperly distributed Covid-19 vaccines to people not on the state’s priority list. There is enough evidence that the case is being referred to the Attorney General’s Office, Cuomo said.

Hungary Gets 6,000 Doses of Vaccine (12:30 a.m. HK)

Hungary has received 6,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik coronavirus vaccine, according to Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto.

U.S. House Backs $2,000 Checks; China Cases Rise: Virus Update

The vaccines will be transported to Hungary’s National Health Center, where officials “will get another opportunity to decide” how to deploy them, Szijjarto said on Monday on Facebook.

Hungary, a European Union member that began vaccinating hospital workers over the weekend with the shot developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, hasn’t yet cleared the Russian vaccine, though Prime Minister Viktor Orban has indicated that his cabinet may sidestep EU regulators to grant it emergency approval.

Russia Extends Ban on Flights From U.K. (11:25 p.m. HK)

Russia extended a ban on flights from the U.K. until Jan. 12 to keep the new strain of coronavirus from spreading, according to a statement from the government’s virus-response center. The initial ban, introduced Dec. 22, was for seven days.

Separately, Russia reported a record 35,645 deaths of people with Covid-19 in November, a 46% jump from the previous month as the second wave of the pandemic pressures the country’s health-care system.

Mexico Clears Way for Vaccine Import, Sales (9:50 p.m. HK)

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Monday that he’ll allow private companies to import and sell the Covid-19 vaccine. The president said the Pfizer vaccine would be targeted at health-care workers, which he expects will all be vaccinated in January. The elderly would then begin receiving single-dose shots from companies like CanSino.

Drive-Through Voting for Israeli Patients (7:49 p.m. HK)

Israel is preparing for its second election during the pandemic, with special arrangements to safeguard public health. These will include drive-through voting stations for confirmed coronavirus patients, and about 30% more polling places in order to avoid crowding, Central Elections Committee Director Orly Adas said at an online press briefing Monday.

There will also be special stations set up for citizens who have been sent to quarantine due to contact with a confirmed coronavirus patient.

Thailand’s First Virus Death Since November (7:40 p.m. HK)

U.S. House Backs $2,000 Checks; China Cases Rise: Virus Update

Thailand reported its first coronavirus death in almost two months as a resurgence in the outbreak tied to migrant laborers in a seaside province near the capital continued to infect more people. A 45-year-old man in Rayong province, who tested positive for Covid-19 and had pre-existing heart conditions, died on Monday, according to Deputy Health Minister Satit Pitutecha.

The casino worker’s death was Thailand’s first virus fatality since Nov. 5, taking the nation’s total to 61 since the outbreak began in January. Thailand on Monday confirmed 144 new infections, which took the nation’s total to 6,285 cases.

Earlier, the country reported 3,065 foreign tourist arrivals in November, a 155% increase from October when visitors returned for the first time in six months. Thailand had 3.39 million visitors in November last year.

U.S. House Backs $2,000 Checks; China Cases Rise: Virus Update

Norway to Allow Shorter Quarantines (7:29 p.m. HK)

Travelers arriving in Norway can leave quarantine after seven days at the earliest if they test negative for Covid-19 twice after arrival, Health and Care Services Ministry says in a statement on the government’s website. The first test must be taken within three days of arrival and the second no earlier than seven days after arrival.

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