The COVID-19 variant disrupts holiday travel, but not shopping

NEWARK, N.J. (AP), The latest COVID-19 variant has disrupted holiday plans for tens and thousands of travelers. However, it did not cause much damage to holiday shopping.

The COVID-19 variant disrupts holiday travel, but not shopping

As the nation's travel problems extended beyond Christmas, airlines cancelled hundreds of more flights Sunday. They cited staffing issues tied to COVID-19. There was no indication when normal schedules would be resumed.

However, shoppers ignored the omicron variant and holiday sales rose at a faster pace than in 17 years, according one spending measure.

Omicron could slow down the unexpectedly strong recovery from last year's coronavirus depression by disrupting travel and dissuading some consumers from going out. Omicron could increase inflation even further by causing shutdowns of factories and ports, slowing shipments, and increasing prices.

Robin Brooks, chief economist of the Institute of International Finance, an international trade group of financial companies, stated that "a full reopening of America's economy will be delayed yet another."

It's still not clear how deep or long the pain will last.

The variant is causing havoc in travel for now. According to FlightAware, more than 1,100 flights entered, left, or flown within the United States were cancelled. This was nearly 1000 more than the Saturday figure. For Monday, 130 flights had already been canceled.

American, Delta, United, JetBlue, and JetBlue blame omicron when staffing shortages resulted in cancellations.

Maddie King, spokesperson for United, stated that the variant had an unexpected effect on staffing.

According to FlightAware data, global airlines had cancelled more than 2,700 flights by Sunday night. This is close to the 2,800 cancellations that occurred the previous day. The site doesn't give any explanation for cancellations.

JetBlue cancelled 11% of its Sunday flights. FlightAware reports that United and Delta both cancelled 5% of their flights. According to FlightAware, the three airlines cancelled more than 10% of their scheduled flight on Saturday.

Mason Herlocker, a New Jersey resident, waited at Newark Liberty International Airport to meet his girlfriend from Paris. Her flight was delayed by four hours.

To get her COVID-19 test on the day she was due to visit the U.S., it took her five hours. Herlocker stated that he is concerned about her safety and said that she might be stuck in the US if she does not have a negative result.

Herlocker was worried about his parents becoming sick and so he got a booster shot. He also encouraged others to get theirs. He stated that he does not believe there is an end to the pandemic.

Herlocker stated, "I believe that this is the new norm." "I don’t see (the virus) disappearing any time soon," Herlocker said.

Aneesh Aryankar arrived in Atlanta on Sunday, and was waiting to board a plane for India.

He was able to confirm that neither of his flights were delayed nor canceled. However, he stated that news about the omicron variant inspired him to increase his travels in order to reach his destination. He stated that vaccines and face masks will likely be ingrained in daily life for the near future.

He said that he doesn't believe there is much to be concerned about, even if all precautions are taken. "I think we will be in a position where we just live with" this virus.

Despite the omicron, American shoppers appeared unaffected. Mastercard SpendingPulse tracks all types of payments including cash and debit cards. It reported Sunday that holiday sales rose 8.5% over the previous year, marking the largest annual increase in 17 years. Mastercard SpendingPulse expected an 8.8% rise.

These results were generated by jewelry and clothing purchases. The holiday sales increased 10.7% over the period before the pandemic 2019.

Some consumers switched to e-commerce after the omicron attack, but sales continued to be strong.

"I feel really happy about the season," Steve Sadove (senior adviser to Mastercard, former CEO of Saks Inc.) said. "When people feel uncomfortable, you'll notice a little pickup in online sales and a slight slowdown in store performance."

Sadove stated that consumers are learning to "learn to live" with the COVID-19 challenges.

He said, "You're coming out 2021 with quite some consumer momentum."

Sunday also saw the nation's most prominent infectious disease physician admit that he was frustrated by the scarcity of COVID-19 test results.

The omicron surge has seen an increase in test demand. Dr. Anthony Fauci stated that "We've clearly got to do better." He spoke in an interview on Sunday's ABC's "This Week."

Fauci stated that although he believes things will improve as we move into January, it doesn't make a difference to us today or tomorrow.

Fauci stated that he was happy with the evidence that omicron causes a lesser severity of illness in most people. Fauci warned against complacency as the rapid spread could lead to a decrease in severity.

Doctor Amesh Adalja, a Johns Hopkins infectious diseases specialist, said that there are still many questions regarding the severity of the omicron surge in the United States.

Multiple signs indicate a decrease in severity. The problem is that there are many high-risk people who have not been vaccinated in certain parts of the country. Adalja stated that hospitals in these regions already treat a lot of patients from the delta.

France was the only country to record more than 100,000 viral infections in one day during the pandemic. The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations has doubled in the last month, as omicron complicates France's efforts to prevent a new lockdown. The total death toll in the country is more than 122,000.

The government of President Emmanuel Macron has scheduled emergency meetings for Monday to discuss next steps. Scientists and educators have suggested that the post-holiday school return be delayed or that a curfew be reinstituted.

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