Omicron spreads global gloom over New Year’s celebrations
The Netherlands, meanwhile, has already closed all non-essential shops, restaurants and bars and extended school holidays in what largely amounts to a new lockdown. In Belgium, new measures came into force on Monday and this weekend: purchases in large groups were banned, and cinemas and concert halls closed during the holiday season.
In France, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced a set of restrictions to come into effect next week, after the New Year. Among them: Major events will be limited to 2,000 people indoors and 5,000 outdoors; eating and drinking will be prohibited in theaters, at sports venues and on public transport; and teleworking will be compulsory at least three days a week for employees whose jobs allow it.
In addition, a bill will be passed in France next month to create a vaccine pass that will only allow vaccinated people to enter public places, including restaurants, bars and cinemas.
The measures come after France recorded more than 100,000 COVID-19 infections in a single day for the first time in the pandemic.
In the United States, the Biden administration has strongly emphasized the importance of vaccinations, reminders and rapid tests, while New York City’s sweeping mandate requires almost all businesses, large and small, to ban employees unvaccinated workplace went into effect Monday. It was announced three weeks ago, shortly after omicron gained a foothold in the United States.
America’s leading infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, has warned that with omicron, “it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” and said authorities should seriously consider requiring airline passengers to national airlines are vaccinated.
“When you make vaccination a requirement, it’s another incentive to get more people vaccinated,” Fauci told MSNBC.
Omicron has forced thousands of flight cancellations and delays around the world due to staff shortages linked to the virus, scrambling vacation plans for travelers.
FlightAware, a flight tracking website, counted more than 2,700 cancellations worldwide Monday night in Europe, including about 1,100 inside, inside or outside the United States.
Despite the variant’s extraordinary ability to infect humans, early indications indicate that it could cause milder disease than previous versions. This uncertainty prevents governments from guessing and results in a wide variety of strategies to push back the tide.
In Greece, authorities announced additional restrictions – also in effect after the New Year – after registering its highest total of new infections on record, nearly 9,300.
Health Minister Thanos Plevris said that from January 3, high protection or double masks will be mandatory in supermarkets and on public transport; entertainment venues will close at midnight and capacity will be reduced to 10% in football stadiums, among other measures.
Other parts of Europe have also been reluctant to impose more restrictions on their citizens.
In Poland, a country of 38 million people where the daily death toll often exceeds 500, nightclubs now closed will be allowed to reopen on New Year’s Eve as the government does not want to go against the law. will of the many voters opposed to restrictions and compulsory vaccines.
And despite the highest death toll from COVID-19 in Europe, Russia will ring in the New Year with few to no restrictions. Many precautions will be lifted during the holiday season which spans 10 days from New Year’s Eve. Russia will also not impose additional travel restrictions.
The official statistical agency Rosstat estimated that between April 2020 and October 2021, Russia recorded 537,000 deaths linked to the virus.
In Belgium, the decision to close theaters and art centers has been particularly criticized.
“We also need it for our mental health. It’s the only way people can have experiences, to tell stories. It is essential for us to be open in these complicated and complex times ”, said Michael De Kok, artistic director of the Royal Flemish Theater.
Some movie theaters have remained open in an act of civil disobedience.
An essential part of the UK holiday celebrations, the flow of English Premier League football matches, is also under threat. The league has canceled 15 games in the past 2 1/2 weeks, with more to follow.
Associated Press editors Zeke Miller in Washington; Colleen Barry in Milan, Italy; Sylvia Hui in London; Sylvie Corbet in Paris, Molly Quell in The Hague, the Netherlands; Geir Moulson in Berlin; Jari Tanner in Tallinn, Estonia; Uliana Pavlova in Moscow; and Vanessa Gera in Warsaw contributed to this report.
Raf Casert, The Associated Press