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Omicron spreads global gloom over New Year’s Eve celebrations

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Omicron spreads global gloom over New Year’s Eve celebrations

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BRUSSELS (AP) – After battling the coronavirus for far too long, the world understands the Belgian word of the year, “knaldrang!” All too well! – the desire to party, the need to let go. Yet as the New Year celebrations approach, the omicron variant is getting darker and darker.

Abundant warnings abound, the number of cases is increasing at an alarming rate, air traffic is scolded and several countries are considering new restrictions to add to the patchwork of lockdowns and other measures already in place in Europe.

America’s leading infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, warned Monday that with the rise of the highly contagious omicron, “it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

“We don’t expect things to change in a matter of days to a week. It will probably take a lot longer than that, but it’s unpredictable, ”he said on ABC.

A man walks past an ignored face mask on the ground outside a shopping mall in downtown Mainz, Germany on Monday, December 27, 2021. (Frank Rumpenhorst / dpa via AP)

New York City’s broad mandate to require almost all businesses, from multinational corporations to corner grocery stores, to ban unvaccinated workers from the workplace, went into effect Monday amid a spike in infections.

In Denmark, the number of infections has increased dramatically in the past few days and set a single-day record of more than 16,000 in the country of 5.8 million.

Travelers around the world have faced flight cancellations and delays due to staff shortages linked to COVID-19. FlightAware, a flight tracking website, counted more than 2,400 cancellations worldwide as of Monday afternoon, including 884 in the United States, to or from the United States.

It is the unpredictability of the virus that prevents governments from guessing and choosing a wide variety of strategies to fend off the pandemic.

Omicron spreads global gloom over New Year’s Eve celebrations

 | Local News
Social distancing signs on coronavirus precautions are displayed on a chair at a subway station in Seoul, South Korea on Monday, December 27, 2021. Signs read “Keep your distance.” (AP Photo / Ahn Young-joon)

The French government and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson were assessing the latest data and the need to counter the record number of COVID-19 infections with more measures to keep people apart at a time when they so want to be together.

But with indications that omicron could be a milder variant despite its extraordinary ability to infect people, politicians have been caught in a bind over whether to spoil another party or play it safe to ensure that health systems do not collapse.

France recorded more than 100,000 infections in a single day for the first time in the pandemic, and hospitalizations linked to COVID-19 have doubled in the past month. President Emmanuel Macron’s government has scheduled emergency meetings on Monday to discuss its next steps.

He hopes that the reinforced vaccinations will be sufficient. The government is pushing a bill that would require people to get vaccinated to enter all restaurants and many public places, instead of the current health card system that allows individuals to produce a negative test or proof of recovery if they are not vaccinated.

Omicron spreads global gloom over New Year’s Eve celebrations

 | Local News
A medical worker in a cabin takes a nasal sample from a man at a makeshift testing site in Seoul, South Korea on Monday, December 27, 2021. (AP Photo / Ahn Young-joon)

This piecemeal approach, often hesitant, is visible in much of Europe. 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 stand against many opposing voters restrictions and compulsory vaccinations.

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, people faced their first real test on Monday with several new measures. Large group shopping has been banned, and cinemas and concert halls have closed at a time when countless families are vacationing together. Calls for the closure of theaters and arts centers have 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.

Omicron spreads global gloom over New Year’s Eve celebrations

 | Local News
Shoppers wearing face masks to protect themselves from COVID-19 walk past a sales poster covering a window at Selfridges department store on Oxford Street in London on Monday, December 27, 2021 (AP Photo / David Cliff)

In Britain there are similar creeping movements. Scotland planned to close its nightclubs on Monday. Northern Ireland and Wales did so on Sunday, although they remain open in England. Johnson, who resisted the order of further restrictions but did not rule them out, was to be briefed on the latest data on the spread of omicron on Monday.

Even that staple of British holiday celebrations, the flow of English Premier League football matches, is under threat. The league has canceled 15 football games in the past two and a half weeks, with more to follow.

Britain’s daily infection count hit a new high of 122,186 on Friday, but there were no figures over the Christmas long weekend.

The Netherlands has gone further there than most other European countries, closing all non-essential shops, restaurants and bars and extending school holidays in a new partial lockdown.

Contributed Colleen Barry from Milan, Sylvia Hui from London, Geir Moulson from Berlin, Jari Tanner from Tallinn, Uliana Pavlova from Moscow and Vanessa Gera from Warsaw.

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