New Year events slashed as Covid-19 wave hammers the world

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PARIS (AFP) – A New Year shorn of mass celebrations beckoned on Thursday (Dec 30) for thousands and thousands around the globe because the variety of every day Covid-19 infections, pushed by the Omicron variant, surged by means of one other symbolic excessive.

Coronavirus, first detected two years in the past and declared a worldwide pandemic in March 2020, has killed greater than 5.4 million individuals, triggered financial crises and seen societies ricochet out and in of lockdowns.

The newest variant, Omicron, whereas tentatively thought of to trigger milder sickness, has pushed an infection ranges to report ranges in current days within the United States, Britain, France and different European international locations, forcing governments to reimpose restrictions.

The variety of every day new Covid-19 circumstances worldwide crossed a million for the primary time, in keeping with an AFP tally on Thursday, with greater than 7.3 million within the final seven days.

From Greece to Mexico, from Barcelona to Bali and throughout swathes of Europe, authorities have cancelled or curtailed public gatherings, both closing or imposing curfews on nightclubs.

Only South Africa, the primary nation to report the Omicron variant, was bucking the development. It lifted a midnight to 4am curfew to permit celebrations to go forward, after well being officers mentioned {that a} dip in infections up to now week indicated the height of the present wave had handed.

In France, sporting masks outside will likely be obligatory whereas strolling the streets of Paris from Friday for everybody over the age of 11. Nightclubs have been closed till nicely into January.

In Spain, public festivities have been cancelled throughout most areas and within the largest cities besides Madrid, the place a stripped-down gathering is scheduled with the gang restricted to 7,000 individuals in comparison with 18,000 in 2019.

Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) mentioned it will begin opening momentary discipline hospitals to comprise a potential overspill of sufferers in England, the place the federal government stopped wanting mandating curbs on New Year festivities.

‘War footing’

“Given the high level of Covid-19 infections and increasing hospital admissions, the NHS is now on a war footing,” National Medical Director Stephen Powis mentioned.

Indonesia, which has reported greater than 4.2 million confirmed circumstances, warned that overseas travellers could also be deported from the resort island of Bali if they’re caught violating Covid-19 well being guidelines that bar carnivals, fireworks and gatherings of greater than 50 individuals over the vacations.

“Get ready to be kicked out,” mentioned Bali immigration workplace head Jamaruli Manihuruk.

Mexico City has cancelled its huge New Year’s Eve celebrations as a preventative measure after an increase in circumstances.

“I feel that this casts doubt on a lot of what we thought was already secure, because it is scary, it is worrying,” mentioned engineering scholar Aaron Rosas.

Israel in the meantime turned one of many first international locations to greenlight a fourth booster shot for immunocompromised individuals.

Authorities in Saudi Arabia reimposed social distancing measures on the Grand Mosque within the Muslim holy metropolis of Mecca, after recording the best variety of infections in months.

“I am highly concerned that Omicron, being more transmissible, circulating at the same time as Delta, is leading to a tsunami of cases,” mentioned World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“This is and will continue to put immense pressure on exhausted health workers, and health systems on the brink of collapse.”

‘Brink of collapse’

Omicron has already began to overwhelm some hospitals within the US, the hardest-hit nation, the place the seven-day common of recent circumstances has hit 265,427, in keeping with a Johns Hopkins University tracker.

Harvard epidemiologist and immunologist Michael Mina tweeted that the depend was possible simply the “tip of the iceberg” with the true quantity possible far greater due to a scarcity of checks.

US well being authorities suggested individuals to keep away from taking cruises over the vacation interval, even when they’re totally vaccinated.

“Half of my family has it,” mentioned Ms Victoria Sierralta at a testing web site in Miami. “It’s like we’re back in like the first stage of Covid. It’s absolutely crazy.”

The NBA, NFL and NHL are scrambling to maintain groups competing and sports activities leagues are grappling with how greatest to regulate their coronavirus protocols to guard gamers, employees and followers whereas protecting schedules intact.

In China, residents within the metropolis of Xi’an, the place 13 million persons are underneath lockdown, mentioned they had been struggling to seek out sufficient meals, regardless of Beijing insisting there have been satisfactory provides.

State TV confirmed footage of employees in hazmat fits sorting eggs, meat and greens, earlier than delivering meals to residents door-to-door.

“I live on…. a bowl of porridge every day, just to keep alive,” one resident surnamed Wang instructed AFP, saying she was working by means of all her provides.

Russia mentioned that greater than 71,000 individuals died of coronavirus within the nation in November, a brand new fatality report because the begin of the pandemic.

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