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tv   BBC News  BBC News  December 21, 2020 4:00am-4:31am GMT

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welcome to bbc news. i'm rich preston. welcome if you're watching here in the uk or around the world. our top stories: dozens of countries ban travel to and from britain as a new coronavirus strain leads to a record in daily confirmed cases. the variant‘s said to be even more infectious. we'll explain how the virus has mutated. a $900 billion shot against coronavirus: republicans and democrats end months of wrangling to agree on a financial relief package for americans. make no mistake about it, this agreement is far from perfect. but it will deliver emergency relief to a nation in the throes of a genuine emergency. we're with italy's drugs squad as they burn a record haul of an amphetamine from syria.
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earlier this summer, they seized 1 billion euros of amphetamines. tonight, they are taking those drugs to be incinerated. european nations have begun to apply travel bans with the uk after it reported a more infectious and "out—of—control" coronavirus variant. denmark, italy and the netherlands have already detected the new strain. eu ambassadors are to bid for emergency talks on monday to work out a common strategy. france's band arrivals from the uk by most routes, including forfreight. uk by most routes, including for freight. ireland, italy, the netherlands, and germany with canada the latest to
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impose restrictions. —— france has banned. mark lobel reports. lorries isolated, passengers grounded, many in the uk now stuck as european nations try to protect themselves from this fast—spreading covid—i9 variant. the netherlands was the first to ban all passenger flights from the uk untiljanuary i, and now ferry passengers too. belgium has suspended flights and train arrivals from the uk for 2h hours. ireland's announced a 48—hour ban on flights arriving from the uk. france has suspended all travel links — that's air, sea, rail or road — for 48 hours, including freight. germany has banned planes landing from the uk, as has switzerland. the czech republic and bulgaria has suspended flights to and from the uk untiljanuary 31. in a breathless and ever—growing list, turkey has too, as well as banning flights from denmark, the netherlands and south africa.
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for the travel industry, this is devastating. european countries are looking at their own health systems and the potential threat to those health systems. the uk government has got to build confidence — notjust with these countries, our neighbours, but also with the travelling public and, indeed, the travel industry. and there are even more countries likely to follow suit. italy's foreign minister says it is about to suspend flights from the uk. austria is planning a travel ban. the swedish government says it will introduce one as soon as possible, with estonia set to follow and lithuania. with norway considering restrictions on uk arrivals, too. madrid says it's strengthening tests at airports and ports for uk arrivals. further afield, kuwait has banned flights arriving from the united kingdom, as has canada. since the new virus variant was detected in the uk
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in september, it has also been detected in the netherlands, denmark, italy and australia. this all comes at a bad time — notjust for britain, days away from the end of its transition period with the eu — but for the wider world, days after getting on the front foot with a vaccine roll—out. now days later, battling to contain this string in the tail. mark lobel, bbc news. after months of wrangling, republicans and democrats in the us congress have reached agreement on a $900 billion coronavirus relief package. the deal includes increased unemployment benefits and stimulus payments for millions of workers who lost their jobs because of the pandemic. announcing the agreement, the republican leader in the us senate mitch mcconnell said the american people should know they would not now be battling the crisis alone. we can finally report what our nation has needed
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to hearfor a very long time. more help is on the way. moments ago, in consultation with our committees, the four leaders of the senate and the house finalised an agreement. it would be another major rescue package for the american people. chuck schumer, who leads the democrats in the senate, said this was a start — but only a start. this bill is a good bill. tonight is a good night. but it is not the end of the story, it is not the end of thejob. anyone who thinks this bill is enough does not know what's going on in america, does not look into the eyes of a small business owner who's losing his business. 0ur north america correspondent peter bowes has more. this is desperately needed by so many americans. it is the second largest stimulus bill in american history — second only to the one you just mentioned, that one that was passed in march — which eventually was worth more than $2
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trillion, so not quite as much money involved this time, but it does mean there will be extra payments to the unemployed, there will be fixed sums sent out to many, many americans, there will be help for students who can't pay their loans, there'll be assistance for farmers and for schools, and the list goes on. it really is quite wide in terms of the institutions, the small businesses and, of course, individuals that this is designed to help. this comes after weeks and months of back and forth. what's the roll—out pattern for this stimulus package? it could be very quick. initially, of course, this is a bill, it has to be passed in the house under the senate. that could happen in the next 2a hours. it has to be signed by the president — and we know that donald trump had been urging congress to reach an agreement, so there is no indication that he would hold up things as far as signing the bill is concerned. and once it comes into law,
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it could just be a matter of days, perhaps as early as next week, before some of those payments actually go out to people who really desperately need them. and of course, we're going through christmas, we're going through a very difficult time as far as the pandemic is concerned. right across the country, it is getting worse, and i'm in los angeles in california where some hospitals are reporting that they have no intensive care beds available. so problems on many fronts for americans but this is some positive news. and peter, this comes as the news that president—elect joe biden and drjill biden, his wife, are due to receive their coronavirus vaccine on monday? yeah,, we've seen in the last few days a number of high—profile politicians having the jab. we had mike pence, the vice president, on friday, and, as you say, joe biden and his wife this week will do the same. and it's felt that this is necessary because there is still a significant number of americans who are sceptical, who are nervous about taking the vaccine, having the vaccine, many on principle — they oppose all vaccines. and many people, including
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mr biden, trying to get the message out that this is absolutely essential if america can reach what's known as herd immunity where enough people are immune to the virus to eventually stop it. north america correspondent peter bowes. let's get some of the day's other news. us republican senator mitt romney has accused president trump of having a blind spot about russia. mr trump on saturday ignored the conclusions of his top spies and even his secretary of state, and suggested that china — not russia — was behind a major hacking attack on us government agencies. mr romney said the data breach was "extraordinarily damaging" and demanded a response. the authorities in afghanistan say at least eight people have been killed and 15 injured in a car bombing in the capital kabul. the interior ministry says women and children are among the victims. the blast targeted the convoy of a member of the afghan parliament, who survived. the explosion was so powerful it caused significant damage in nearby buildings.
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several rockets have been fired into the heavily fortified green zone in baghdad, where several embassies and government buildings are located, causing minor damage to residential buildings at the us embassy. the iraqi military has blamed what it called an outlaw group for the attack, and said that one iraqi soldier was injured. and pope francis has complained that consumerism has "kidnapped" christmas. in his last sunday blessing before 25 december, he told a crowd in st peter's square that there was no consumerism in the manger in bethlehem, only reality, poverty and love. the italian authorities have destroyed hundreds of millions of dollars‘ worth of the amphetamine captagon, seized when shipments from syria were intercepted. it was part of a coordinated effort against a trade in lucrative narcotics likely to be run by the syrian regime and its allies. captagon is used recreationally across the middle east but is also taken by militants fighting on the frontlines.
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0ur correspondent quentin sommerville, gained exclusive access to the operation in naples. syria's war can seem a million miles away from europe but tonight in naples, it intrudes once again. pronti! italy's financial crimes police are on a night—time mission that has been months in the making. earlier this summer, they seized i billion euros of amphetamines. initially, they thought they came from the islamic state group. well, they weren't right about that. but tonight, they're taking those drugs to be incinerated. the drugs, which came from the syrian port of latakia, are under heavy guard on a nine—hour journey to destruction. inside, an unprecedented haul — 85 million pills. syria's criminal regime and its ally hezbollah are deep in the drugs trade.
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but these drugs weren't meant for european streets. italy was only a stopover on the pills‘ long journey to libya. captagon, the amphetamine, is wildly popular in the arab world. it's used recreationally and by fighters too. colonel danilo tommo tells me "this is the biggest haul we've ever found — the biggest in the world of captagon. looking at the amount, we think it would have flooded the entire market." i've seen this drug on the battlefields of iraq, syria, libya, but i've never seen it in these quantities before.
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captagon is produced in syrian regime and here, in rebel—held areas. abu abdu, a fighter—turned—smuggler, explains the drug's effects. translation: fighters use it. if you have doubts, it brings courage and helps detach you from reality. the pills give you power, make you feel like a hero, so you can enter battle and fight, and not be scared. it's been a bad year for syria's drug smugglers. there's been a succession of seizures of their cargo. millions of pills in the last month alone. these pictures are from egypt. there, they were hidden in waterfilters. captagon fuels conflict, but it also fills the coffers of bashar al—assad's heavily sanctioned state. the growing number of seizures from the narcos of the middle east is another front in an effort to stop the flow of illegal riches reaching the syrian regime. quentin somerville, bbc news, naples.
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stay with us on bbc news. still to come: not so slick business — how olive oil producers are struggling for workers to help with the harvest. music and chanting. saddam hussein is finished because he killed our people, our women, our children. the signatures took only a few minutes but they brought a formal end to 3.5 years of conflict — conflict that has claimed more than 200,000 lives. before an audience of world leaders, the presidents of bosnia, serbia and croatia put their names to the peace agreement. the romanian border was sealed and silent today. romania has cut itself off from the outside world
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in order to prevent the details of the presumed massacre in timisoara from leaking out. from sex at the white house to a trial for his political life, the lewinsky affair tonight guaranteed bill clinton his place in history as only the second president ever to be impeached. this is bbc news. the latest headlines: dozens of governments around the globe ban travel to and from the uk, after the country announced cases of a new more infectious strain of coronavirus. in the us, congress ends months of wrangling to agree on a $900 billion financial relief package for those hit hardest by the pandemic. let's stay with that story in the us. i spoke earlier to have
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a long, economics correspondent at the washington post. the other big part of the package goes for the unemployed, so about 12 million americans were set to lose unemployment aid at the end of the month, which would have been a very scary scenario. this extends most of that aid through mid—march and gives people who are jobless and extra $300 a week. the final big part of the package that is getting a lot of buzz is about 160 million americans will receive a $600 payment from the government. this is meant to help them cover their answers and make it through the winter. there is also money to help pay for vaccines, help schools reopen, public transit, so a big boost of aid and very much needed. is that enough? you mentioned unemployment numbers
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continuing to rise. $600, it's a lot when you spread it across the whole country but in someone's back when you are feeding a family perhaps still not enough? there is no doubt, it took congress five months to agree on this, a number of businesses have closed forever. they have already been hacked and as we reported last week, 8 million americans have fallen into poverty since the summer so into poverty since the summer so there have been real ramifications here. this aid is coming late but it is better late than never. going forward, the big concern is the us, much like the uk, we are trying to get these vaccines out as fast as possible but in a country as big as the united states it is probably unlikely that most of the population will be vaccinated until the summer and a lot of this aid ends in march 01’ a lot of this aid ends in march or early april, so what happens in april and may and june until people feel comfortable enough to go back to restaurants and to go back to restaurants and to travel again. you mentioned this runs until march, by then
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we will have a new president and a new administration in the white house. any hints as to how they will address the economic problems? president—elect biden has made it clear that he sees this as only a start, he would like to do more aid in the spring but it is very hard for him to do that as long as the senate is controlled by republicans. we will know the result of two run—off elections in georgia which will determine if republicans keep control of the senate. that said, mr biden can doa senate. that said, mr biden can do a lot on his own, he has spoken about doing an eviction moratorium, at the moment this bill would extend that through january, president biden would more likely than extend that. he may also be able to do what president trumpeted in august and put a little bit more money towards the unemployed in april and may but at the end of the day, congress holds the purse strings and it is hard to do a lot more money without congress
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agreeing. the sharply increased number of new cases in the uk is being linked to the new variant of covid being more infectious. 0ur health correspondent catherine burns reports now on what we know about the mutation — and now it happened since the pandemic started, we've learnt a lot about coronavirus, but it's been learning about us too. it's had practice at dealing with our immune systems and has developed an extra way of fighting us — this new variant. it's changed 23 times. many differences are linked to the all—important spike protein, the part of the virus that lets it bind onto human cells. so, the worry is that this mutation could make it easier for the virus to infect us. doctors think this new variant could spread up to 70% faster, although that figure is just an estimate. scientists advising the government also say it could increase the r number, which shows how the virus can spread, by
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between 0.4 and 0.9. when we find the virus, we're finding the virus in the nose and throat. the higher amount of virus means that people are likely to be more infectious than they would otherwise be, and this means that we need to reiterate the social—distancing measures, keep your distance, reduce your contacts. one key question is, will vaccines still work against this? well, the vaccine trains our immune systems to recognise and react to the spike protein in the virus, and it has changed. but we're talking about tweaks, rather than huge differences. it's early days, but scientists think the vaccines are now, more than ever, the key to getting this under control. another question is, are people more likely to become very sick, or even die, if they get infected with this? well, so far, there is no evidence to show that this variant causes more severe illness in any one single person, but it's thought that somewhere between one in 100 and one in 150 people who get coronavirus will die from it.
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and if this variant is more infectious, it could cause more cases, and so more deaths. we've already seen ambulances queueing outside of hospitals and some trusts cancelling routine surgery, as they struggle to cope with the pandemic and winter pressures. now, this too. we're 11,000 beds fewer than we were last year because of infection control. and of the remaining beds, 16,000 of them are occupied by covid patients. that's 2,000 more than eight days ago. so, what chief executives are saying to us is, it's going to be a nail—biting week to ten days for them while they see whether these new measures will have the desired impact. until enough of us have been vaccinated, the best way to stop this virus spreading is to stick to social distancing, wear our masks, wash our hands, and to cut contact with other people. catherine burns, bbc news.
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earlier on ice spoke to an professor at harvard university. i asked professor at harvard university. iasked him professor at harvard university. i asked him why this variant was such a concerned. the major reason it's a concern is that it's quite evidently causing a lot of infections in the south—east of england and other parts of the country. the thing which is really striking about it, which really leaps out is that it has not one but many mutations. i mean, mutations are something that happens all the time. most mutations don't really mean anything. if anything, they make the virus less fit but those which do make it more fit, make it more able to transmit or more able to invade cells will tend to become more common in the population and this one has a lot of them, including several which had previously been noticed and indicated as being those which we want to be keeping a very close eye on. so the interaction between the large number of cases caused by this, and the fact that it has a lot of mutations which we are already primed to be concerned about, is the reason why we are worried. one of the questions on many people's minds
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will be around vaccinations. will this make the vaccines less effective? at the moment, there is no reason to think that it is going to render the vaccines completely ineffective, and i think that is completely correct that the vaccines are still by far the most important weapon that we have in our arsenal and to be able to deploy them quickly, being able to get them into a large number of people is the best thing we can do. whether or not there is going to be a little diminished efficacy is going to be an empirical question we're going to be needing to be looking at very closely, but for now, yes, you should be getting vaccinated, if you can. i imagine this is going to continue mutating, does this make this harder to control, harder to predict? in general, those of us who study infectious disease and the way that it evolves are ready and prepared for these things to be evolving and mutating. indeed, we can expect that there are going to be changes that are going to be happening and we're going to be monitoring them and keeping a very, very close eye in order
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to figure out what the best way to intervene is, but for now, as you were just hearing, it is really more of what we have been doing for quite some time but if you are getting comfortable with a particular level of risk, please think again. consider reducing your risk still more because this is something which is pretty, it is really quite likely that this is able to transmit more than the variant that was present beforehand. is there a way to stop or slow down the mutation of a virus? people have thought about ways of trying to do that. in fact, if you think about sars—cov—2, generally speaking, it is not a very rapidly mutating virus, in fact it is an unusually slowly mutating virus and that is one of the reasons why we want to look at this really carefully and understand how it is that this particular variant came to have a many mutations appearing, comparatively, almost overnight. the first time this was noticed was in the middle of september and it is already causing a very high proportion of cases in the south—east of england.
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the economic consequences of the pandemic have been felt almost everywhere. restaurants remain closed. planes are not flying. people are not working. the lack of movement means businesses that rely on casual labour are struggling more than most. that's particularly true for the olive farmers of greece, who are desperate for whatever help they can get. the bbc‘s tim allman explains. some call it green gold. olive trees stretching far into the distance in this part of greece. the industry is worth nearly a billion dollars each year. the country, is the fourth biggest producer of olive oil in the world. but then came the pandemic, and all that entailed. translation: because the border is closed, the workers could not come in time. we tried to sort their paperwork, but they were blocked again at the borders. in previous years we had at least 100 to 120 foreign labourers. this year, no more than 15.
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last month, greece closed its border with albania, the main source of its seasonal agricultural labour. a huge blow to these farmers, but some have fallen back on older traditions. translation: there are no workers to harvest the olives, we will do it on our own, we are four siblings, we will pick them by ourselves. but will that be enough? this is an industry very much in crisis, and after all, green gold is not much use when there is no—one left to harvest it. a reminder of our top story: dozens of governments around the world band travel to and from the uk after the country announced cases of a new, more infectious variant of
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coronavirus copy you can reach me on twitter, thanks very much for your company. stay safe and see you next time. hello. for most of us, the chances of a white christmas look pretty slim, but it's probably not going to be a particularly wet christmas either. drier, colder weather on the way by the end of this week. there is some more rain to get out of the way first, and on the earlier satellite picture, you can see this big hook of cloud. this is really going to provide wet weather across southern areas, particularly through the first half of this week. this first frontal system bringing rain, particularly across england and wales, up into northern ireland as well. something a little bit clearer but still with some showers further north. chilly air across northern areas with a wedge of really mild air working in towards the south. a very, very mild start to wednesday in southern areas,
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but a cloudy, wet start with outbreaks of rain pushing northwards across england, wales. some heavy rain moving through northern ireland, getting into southern scotland for a time as well. something a little bit drier following on behind, but probably still quite cloudy. some further rain into southern counties of england. northern scotland will see some sunny spells, yes, but some showers, too, and some of these will be turning wintry at times over high ground through the afternoon. a rather chilly day in northern areas, a very mild one in the south with highs perhaps 15 degrees. as we go through monday night, you can see further pulses of rain pushing across southern areas up into wales, the midlands. further north, clear spells, still a few showers into northwest scotland. pretty mild down towards the south, a much colder night for the north — there could even be a touch of frost here and there. then into tuesday, cloudy, damp weather will continue across southern counties of england, maybe into south wales at times. further north, we'll see more in the way of sunshine, but again, a scattering of showers, especially across the northwest of scotland, some of these showers wintry over the hills and the mountains. temperatures, again, six or 7 degrees in the north,
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12, maybe 13 down towards the south. now, an area of low pressure is set to bring more rain on wednesday, especially across southern areas, but as we head towards the end of the week, this area of high pressure is going to start to build its way in. so, through christmas eve and into christmas day, high pressure will take charge, but with that, some colder air working its way southwards. so, yes, temperatures dropping away by thursday and friday, christmas eve and christmas day, but by this stage, it should be mostly dry with just a few showers.
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bbc news, the headlines was not dozens bbc news, the headlines was not d oze ns of bbc news, the headlines was not dozens of countries are imposing travel bands to and from britain where a new fast spreading variant of coronavirus has led to the country's highest daily number of recorded cases. after months of recorded cases. after months of wrangling, cabinet republicans and democrats in the us congress have reached agreement on a 900 william dollar code —— coronavirus relief package —— billion—dollar. it includes stimulus payments for millions of workers who lost their jobs because of the pandemic and will also provide funding for the max vass —— mass vaccination campaign. still caught up on fish. uk and eu negotiators trying to agree the terms of a free trade deal between the two say they are still stuck on the issue of eu accessed uk's fishing waters.


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