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Lawmakers reach deal on $900 billion COVID-19 relief package

Several European countries, including Germany, France, Italy, Ireland, Belgium, and the Netherlands, have imposed bans on flights and ferries from the United Kingdom, after reports that a new, more infectious variant of the coronavirus is spreading in southeast England.

The countries are following different timelines — the Netherlands, for example, is banning passenger flights from the UK until January 1, while France is suspending flights, freight transport, and ferries for 48 hours starting Monday. A European Union meeting has been scheduled for Monday morning so the countries can discuss a coordinated response.

Health officials said this new coronavirus variant doesn’t appear to be deadlier and the developed vaccines will most likely work against it, but the strain does seem to be up to 70 percent more transmissible, BBC News reports. First detected in September, the variant is “out of control,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock said, causing an “incredibly difficult end to frankly an awful year.”

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On Saturday night, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed strict new lockdown measures affecting millions of people, reversing course from earlier plans to actually relax rules over Christmas. Catherine Garcia