Anadolu Agency is here with a rundown of the latest developments on the coronavirus pandemic and other news in Turkey and around the world

-Coronavirus and other developments in Turkey

Turkey reported 20,316 coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, including 3,546 symptomatic cases, according to Health Ministry data released Sunday.

The total number of cases reached over 2 million with the latest additions.

As many as 21,218 people also recovered over the past day, bringing the tally to 1.8 million, while the death toll climbed to 18,097 with 246 additions.

Late Sunday, Turkey joined other European countries in banning flights from the UK and other countries due to concerns over a new fast-moving coronavirus strain.

“It has been reported that the rate of transmission has increased in the UK with the mutation of the coronavirus,” Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca wrote on Twitter.

“Under the directives of our President in coordination with our Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure, a temporary suspension has been decided for flights from the UK, Denmark, the Netherlands and South Africa to our country,” Koca said.

The move came as several European countries including France, Germany, Italy and Austria announced a suspension of flights from the UK amid news of the strain.

The World Health Organization also asked European countries to redouble their health measures amid the new fast-spreading strain.

Meanwhile, the death toll from a fire in an intensive care unit of a private hospital in southeastern Turkey rose to 11 on Sunday, according to the Gaziantep Prosecutor’s Office.

The incident took place at 4.45 a.m. (0145 GMT) Saturday in a COVID-19 intensive care unit at SANKO University Hospital in Gaziantep.

The fire was caused by the explosion of an oxygen ventilator. Eleven patients receiving virus treatment were transferred to nearby hospitals.

– COVID-19 updates worldwide

South Africa has reported 9,445 new cases of the novel coronavirus in a 24-hour period, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 921,922, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced Sunday.

“Regrettably, 152 more COVID-19 deaths have been reported. We convey our condolences to the loved ones of the departed and thank healthcare workers that treated the deceased,” Mkhize said during his daily COVID-19 update to the nation.

He said the latest deaths have pushed the toll to 24,691 and the total number of recoveries is 793,914.

South Africa is currently experiencing a second wave of the pandemic.

The Ugandan second deputy prime minister succumbed to COVID-19 on Saturday, the East African country’s president confirmed.

Addressing a rally in the city of Hoima, Yoweri Museveni said Ali Kirunda Kivejinja breathed his last at the Mulago National Referral Hospital in the capital Kampala, where he was under treatment for over a month after testing positive for the disease.

Medical sources at the treatment facility said the deputy premier spent nearly 30 days in intensive care.

Greece recorded a significant drop in its daily coronavirus cases, registering 588 infections Sunday, according to health authorities.

Health authorities reported 901 cases the previous day, while the day before, officials announced 916 infections.

The total number of confirmed cases in the country since the start of the pandemic is now 131,070, of which 5,211 are linked to traveling abroad.

Italy on Sunday reported 352 new COVID-19 related deaths, down from 533 a day before, but the country continues to register among the highest deaths in Europe.

The country also recorded 15,104 new infections, down from 16,308 on Saturday, confirming the trend observed over the past few weeks, which showed that the pandemic curve is flattening but at a very slow pace.

The Italian government has imposed strict restrictions over the Christmas holidays to limit public movements and large gatherings that could spread the virus across the country, possibly sparking a third wave early next year.

Hours after Britain announced a harsher lockdown due to a fast-spreading coronavirus strain, France, Germany, Italy and other European states rushed to limit the new strain’s reach, cutting off transport links.

Across the channel, France suspended all traffic to and from the UK starting midnight Sunday for at least 48 hours. Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said on Twitter that the decision was taken over the new fast-spreading strain, adding: “We are now working to build a harmonized European health protocol.”

The decision to ban rail, road and flight transportation for passengers and freight goods was taken in an emergency Sunday night meeting of a health defense committee remotely chaired by President Emmanuel Macron from his quarantine and recuperation from COVID-19 symptoms.

-Other developments

US Congressional leaders announced late Sunday a long-sought deal on a roughly $900 billion coronavirus relief package that would send Americans across the country badly-needed financial assistance.

In addition to direct payments, the legislation is also expected to include efforts to further unemployment assistance and assist small businesses struggling to cope with the economic destruction wrought by the pandemic, though the text of the bill has yet to be released.

“As the American people continue battling the coronavirus this holiday season, they will not be on their own,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Twitter. “Congress has just reached an agreement. We will pass another rescue package ASAP. More help is on the way.”

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