Air travel continues to be severely disrupted in the United States today, as poor weather in parts of the country amplifies the impact of a massive surge in Covid-19 infections fueled by the Omicron variant.
And according to tracking website FlightAware, the US had 2,604 canceled flights, and more than half of the 4,529 flights worldwide were canceled, shortly after 4.30pm.
In addition, 3,447 domestic flights were postponed today, out of a total of 7,602 flights around the world for the day.
According to the site, the US airline Southwest was the worst affected airline, as it had to cancel 13% of its flight schedule.
In the US, airports in Chicago have been particularly hard hit by bad weather, with a snowstorm expected in the area this afternoon and into the night.
The global air travel industry continues to suffer from the highly contagious Omicron variant.
Many pilots, flight attendants and other staff are absent from work after contracting Covid-19, or because they are quarantined after coming into contact with an infected person.
Airlines around the world canceled about 7,500 flights over the Christmas holidays.
China ends 2021 with the highest number of Covid-19 since the start of the epidemic
China ended its final week of 2021 with the largest number of domestic coronavirus cases in any seven-day period since subduing the country’s first epidemic in nearly two years, despite some of the world’s strictest measures against Covid-19.
Today, the National Health Commission reported 175 new community-based asymptomatic infections with confirmed clinical symptoms, bringing the total number of local asymptomatic cases in mainland China in the past week to 1,151.
The increase was mostly driven by an outbreak in the industry and technology hub in northwest Xi’an, a city of 13 million people.
The outbreak is likely to break out in the city of Xi’an with the resolute determination of the authorities to reduce transmission quickly when cases emerge.
The city, which is under a ten-day lockdown as of today, has reported 1,451 local asymptomatic cases since Dec. 9, the highest toll of any Chinese city in 2021.
While the number of cases in China is small compared to many outbreaks elsewhere in the world, preventing major explosions in 2022 will be important.
Beijing will host the Winter Olympics in February, and the ruling Communist Party will hold a congress every five years, expected in the fall, when President Xi Jinping is likely to secure a third term as party secretary.
The emergence of the highly transmissible Omicron variant will also push Beijing to remain vigilant against the virus.
China has reported a small number of imported Omicron cases and at least one locally transmitted case.
Since August, China has tried to bring any outbreak under control in about two weeks, much shorter than the four to six weeks in previous battles against sporadic bombings in the wake of the initial nationwide epidemic, according to the National Health Commission.
Cities along China’s borders are at greater risk of contracting the virus, either due to the presence of road transport links or the entry of infected travelers from other countries. Some were struck by an outbreak in the delta region that led to severe travel restrictions last year.
Yunnan province, which shares borders with Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam, reported more localized asymptomatic cases on 92 out of 365 days last year, or 25% of the time, than any other province, autonomous region or municipality.
The Xi’an outbreak, which has led to cases in other cities including Beijing, can be traced back to a flight from Pakistan, but it is not clear how it spread to local communities.
Many people have been prevented from leaving their apartment complexes, but a government official said yesterday that restrictions will be eased in less dangerous compounds when the time comes.
China’s tough pandemic policies have helped prevent its sprawling industrial sector from slipping into prolonged shutdowns, and reap important export gains as other pillars of growth weaken.
But the unexpected turmoil rattled consumer sentiment and hit the catering, hospitality and tourism sectors.
UK health minister says new Covid restrictions will be a last resort
Health Minister Sajid Javid said new restrictions in England to slow the spread of Covid-19 would only be introduced as a last resort, stressing that although the number of hospitalized patients rose, the number of patients in intensive care was stable.
The rapid spread of the Omicron variant across the UK has sent infections to record levels, with nearly 190,000 new cases reported yesterday.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have imposed restrictions such as limits on the numbers allowed to gather, closing nightclubs and social distancing measures in pubs.
« Restrictions on our freedom should be the absolute last resort, » Mr Javid wrote in an article for the Daily Mail.
We must give ourselves the best chance to live by the virus and avoid drastic measures in the future.
Mr Javid had said on December 27 that no new restrictions would be imposed in England before the end of 2021.
His article suggested there was nothing imminent in 2022 either.
He said that while the increase in Omicron meant this was a time of concern, Britain was starting the new year in a much stronger position than in the 12 months before that, thanks to a high vaccination rate.
« The numbers in the intensive care units are stable and do not currently follow the path we saw at this time last year during the alpha wave, » he wrote.
He acknowledged that because of the time lag between infection and hospitalization, a significant increase in people needing care from the NHS is inevitable.
« This is more likely to test the limits of the NHS’s limited capacity than a normal winter, » he said, urging people to do all they can to protect themselves.
The number of daily Covid-19 cases in India increased by 22,775
Health Ministry data showed that India reported 22,775 new cases of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, adding to the concerns of authorities across the country about the rising number of cases.
The data shows that densely populated cities, such as the national capital New Delhi and the financial hub Mumbai and Kolkata in the east, are seeing some of the steepest rises.
In East West Bengal, infections rose to 3,450 in the past 24 hours with at least 1,950 cases reported in Kolkata, the capital. Sixteen omicron cases have been reported in West Bengal.
The Kolkata Municipal Corporation has announced 17 small containment areas in residential communities where more than five infections have been reported. People who live in the areas are not allowed to leave the area to try to contain the spread of the disease.
The director of health services in the state said that he is holding meetings with private hospitals to ensure the readiness of health facilities to deal with the increasing number of cases.
India experienced a devastating second wave of Covid-19 last year when the daily average number of new cases peaked at around 400,000.
The caseload has decreased significantly since then. For several months, the national number has remained well below 10,000 cases per day.
Now, officials and medical experts fear that the alternative Omicron may fuel a third wave of the disease.
« Spécialiste de la télévision sans vergogne. Pionnier des zombies inconditionnels. Résolveur de problèmes d’une humilité exaspérante. »