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Omicron variant of COVID-19 brings gloom in the new year

 | News Today

Omicron variant of COVID-19 brings gloom in the new year

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After struggling with the coronavirus for too long the world has understood 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.

Several countries are considering more restrictions to add to the patchwork of lockdowns and other measures already in place in Europe.

And 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.”

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A vaccinator administers a Moderna booster vaccine to a man at the Antwerp Expo vaccination center in Antwerp, Belgium on Monday, December 27, 2021.
(AP Photo / Virginia Mayo)

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

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

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.

The lack of complete data over the Christmas weekend further complicated matters, making it more difficult to pinpoint omicron’s path.

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 is the only way people 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 cinemas have remained open in an act of civil disobedience, and police, already called upon during the holidays, said they would not be able to enforce all closures.

Communal celebrations like the New Year’s fireworks, which usually draw thousands of people to Brussels, are canceled. Nightclubs are already closed, and restaurants and bars must close at 11 p.m.

Omicron variant of COVID-19 brings gloom in the new year

 | News Today

Passengers wearing face masks take a bus through Westminster 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.

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.

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.

Omicron variant of COVID-19 brings gloom in the new year

 | News Today

A vaccinator administers a Moderna booster vaccine to a woman at the Antwerp Expo vaccination center in Antwerp, Belgium on Monday, December 27, 2021.
(AP Photo / Virginia Mayo)

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In Italy, the government has not imposed any rules for private gatherings, but has banned outdoor events on New Year’s Eve and closed nightclubs until the end of January.

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.

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