Omicron spreads global despair over New Year's celebrations

BRUSSELS, (AP) -- The world now knows the meaning of Belgium's word for the year, "knaldrang!" - the desire to party, to let loose. The omicron variant of the coronavirus is causing more misery as New Year celebrations near.

Omicron spreads global despair over New Year's celebrations

There are dire warnings, caseloads are increasing alarmingly quickly, air traffic is jammed and many countries are looking at adding to the existing network of restrictions and other measures in Europe.

Dr. Anthony Fauci (the top U.S. infectious disease expert) warned Monday that the situation would get worse with the emergence of highly contagious Omicron.

"We don’t think things will turn around in a matter of days or weeks. He said that it will likely take longer, but that's not predictable.

New York City's broad mandate, which requires nearly all businesses, including multinational corporations and corner grocery stores to ban unvaccinated workers from their workplace, took effect Monday amid an increase in infections.

The infection rates in Denmark have increased dramatically in the last few days. They set a new one-day record of more than 16,000 in the country of 5.8million.

Due to COVID-19 staff shortages, travelers around the globe faced flight cancellations or delays. FlightAware, an online flight tracking website, had more than 2,400 cancellations globally by Monday afternoon. 884 of these were within the U.S.

Unpredictability is what is keeping governments second-guessing each other and choosing widely different strategies to defeat the pandemic.

Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister and French Government, were reviewing the latest data to determine if more measures needed to combat the record number of COVID-19 infection.

However, there were indications that the omicron variant might be milder despite its incredible ability to infect people. Politicians were left in a quandary over whether they should spoil another party or play safe in order to ensure that health care systems don’t collapse.

France has seen more than 100,000 cases of infection in one day, the first time this pandemic has occurred. COVID-19 hospitalizations increased by two-thirds in the past month. Monday's emergency meeting was called by President Emmanuel Macron to discuss the next steps.

It hopes that increased vaccinations will suffice. A draft law is being proposed by the government that would require all people to have their vaccinations in order to allow them to enter restaurants and other public places. This replaces the current health pass system, which allows individuals to show proof of recovery or a negative test if they aren't vaccinated.

It is evident throughout Europe that this fragmented, sometimes hesitant approach is common. Poland is a country of 38 million people where the daily death rate now exceeds 500. On New Year's Eve nightclubs that have been closed will be allowed to reopen. The government won't allow them to close because they are opposed to mandatory vaccinations and restrictions.

Even though Europe has the highest COVID-19 death toll, Russia will welcome the new year without any restrictions. During the 10 day holiday period, many precautions will be lifted. Russia will also not place any travel restrictions.

According to Rosstat, Russia suffered 537,000 deaths due to viruses between April 2020 and Oct 2021.

People in Belgium were put to the test on Monday by a variety of new measures. Large groups were prohibited from shopping and movie theatres and concert halls were closed during a time when many families are on vacation together. Particularly harsh criticism was directed at the calls to close arts centers and theaters.

It is essential for our mental health. It's the only way people can live experiences and tell stories. It is essential that we are open in these complex and complicated times," stated Michael De Kok (artistic director of Flemish Royal Theatre).

In civil disobedience, some movie theaters remained open.

Similar creepy moves are seen in Britain. Scotland was planning to close its nightclubs on Monday. Wales and Northern Ireland did the same on Sunday. However, they are still open in England. Johnson, who is refusing to order new restrictions, but hasn’t ruled out the possibility of them, was scheduled to be briefed Monday about the most recent data regarding the spread of the omicron.

Even the staple of British holiday celebrations is at risk, the stream of English Premier League soccer matches. Over the past two weeks, 15 soccer games have been cancelled by the league. More could be added.

The daily infection rate in Britain reached a new peak of 122,186 Friday. However, no numbers were available over the Christmas weekend.

The Netherlands has taken a step further than many other European countries by closing down non-essential stores, restaurants, and bars, and extended school holidays in a partial lockdown.

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