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Congress finally reaches Covid relief deal, fear grows over new virus strain

The U.K. was cut off from almost two dozen countries as officials grapple with the new virus variant.
Image: A sign on the M56 motorway informs drivers that all routes into France are closed at the junction with the M6 at Lower Stretton near Warrington, northwest England
A sign informs U.K. drivers that all routes into France are closed on Monday. Paul Ellis / AFP - Getty Images

Good morning, NBC News readers.

Congress has finally reached a deal on Covid-19 relief aid, fears mount over the U.K.'s new mutant virus variant, and Moderna's Covid-19 has begun getting shipped across the country.

Here's what we're watching this Monday morning.


Congress reaches deal on $900 billion Covid relief package

After months of stalemate, Congress struck a deal on nearly $900 billion in Covid-19 relief, including a new round of direct payments and help for families, jobless Americans and businesses struggling in the pandemic.

"More help is on the way," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Sunday evening.

The agreement includes stimulus checks of up to $600 a person based on income and a federal unemployment insurance bonus of $300 a week, over $284 billion more in loans for businesses struggling to pay rent and workers, vaccine distribution funds, and $82 billion in funding for colleges and schools.

However, one major group that is already angered about being left out of the aid bill is state and local governments.

Meantime, as Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine, the second one approved for use in the U.S., starts getting shipped out, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee recommended who should be next in line for the drugs: People ages 75 and older and front-line essential workers.

Follow our live blog for all the latest Covid-19 developments.


Britain cut off by France, Canada as new mutant Covid strain spreads

The United Kingdom was increasingly isolated on Monday as countries around the world shut their doors to the island nation after a possibly more infectious strain of the coronavirus was detected.

Almost two dozen countries including Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Iran, Colombia and Morocco have suspended flights from the U.K. for 48 hours or more.

Crisis meetings were scheduled in London and Brussels as officials grappled with how to respond to the variant, which experts estimate is 70 percent more transmissible than others in circulation.

Here's what scientists know about the mutant virus strain spreading in the U.K..

Meantime, at England's main port of Dover, which was already gridlocked this weekend ahead of Brexit looming at the end of the month, freight officials warned that the new travel bans could wreak havoc on supply chains of food and goods days before Christmas.


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Quote of the day

"Today that variant is getting on a plane and landing at JFK. How many times in life do you have to make the same mistake before you learn?"

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday, expressing outrage that the U.S. had not taken action to prevent the new variant of coronavirus in the U.K. from entering the country.


One fun thing

"Saturday Night Live" took aim at Vice President Mike Pence after he received the Covid-19 vaccination in a televised appearance on Friday.

"I’m sure all Americans are excited to see me, the guy who let Covid spread everywhere, get one of the first vaccines," said Pence, played by Beck Bennett.

The vice president, who chairs the White House's coronavirus task force, sought to reassure Americans who have doubts about the safety of the vaccine.

"I just want reassure the American people that this vaccine is completely safe and harmless," he said. "That’s why President Trump refuses to talk about it."

In other SNL news, there is an opening for a good impersonation of President-elect Joe Biden. Actor Jim Carrey announced he will no longer be playing the part in the new year.

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Thanks, Petra