Updated 16 minutes ago
HOLIDAY TRAVEL CHAOS is reaching out worldwide with more than 2,100 flights scheduled to be canceled Monday, according to flight tracker FlightAware.
As the highly transmissible Omicron variant of Covid-19 continues to spread, 2,270 flights have been canceled around the world. There are about 1,108 in, outside, or within the United States.
About 8,300 flights were grounded and tens of thousands delayed on the weekend – one of the busiest travel periods of the year – as several airlines said Omicron’s heights caused staff shortages.
In addition, US authorities are monitoring dozens of cruise ships hit by Covid cases, with many ports in the Caribbean being refused.
The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention said more than 60 ships were under surveillance after « reported cases of Covid-19 met the CDC investigation threshold. »
Earlier this week, 55 people on the Odyssey of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, tested positive for Covid-19, which has spread among passengers and crew even though 95 percent of people on board have been vaccinated.
The Washington Post reported that another ship, the Carnival Freedom, was turned away from the Caribbean island of Bonaire.
In a statement to AFP, Carnival confirmed that « a small number on board have been quarantined due to a positive COVID test. »
French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to announce new measures for Covid-19 today as the country prepares for a new surge in cases. Officials warned that hospitals were once again at risk of overcrowding after 100,000 cases were reported on Saturday, the highest daily level in France since the pandemic began nearly two years ago.
Health experts have estimated that the number of daily cases could increase rapidly by mid-January, even though millions of people have received booster injections in recent weeks.
In China, the closed city of Xi’an, where 13 million residents face their fifth day of home confinement, has tightened Covid-19 controls to the « tightest » level, banning residents from driving across the city.
China has stuck to its « zero-Covid » strategy of imposing tight border restrictions, extended quarantines and targeted lockdowns as Beijing prepares to welcome thousands of foreign visitors for the Winter Olympics in February.
But the historic city of Xi’an is at the center of a surge that has sent the number of daily infections across the country to its highest level since March last year.
The northern city recorded 150 new cases on Monday, bringing the total to nearly 650 since December 9.
Restrictions were further tightened on Monday as the city of Xi’an announced it would impose « the strictest social control measures, » according to the city government’s social media account. Vehicles are only allowed to pass on the roads if they help in disease control work.
Police and health officials will « strictly » inspect cars, and those who break the rules could face 10-day detention and a fine of 500 yuan ($78).
The Xi’an government has come under fire for its poor handling of the outbreak, with China’s disciplinary body saying last week that 26 local officials had been sanctioned for loopholes in preventing the virus.
Authorities have imposed strict restrictions on movement in and out of the city, with footage from state CCTV station Sunday showing trucks waiting in line at road checkpoints while workers in hazmat suits check health codes on drivers’ mobile phones.
Denmark and Iceland on Monday reported recording daily cases of the coronavirus, as the rapidly spreading Omicron variant makes Europe a global hotspot for infections and deaths.
All of Scandinavia had some of the lowest infection rates in Europe prior to the arrival of Omicron.
Europe has recorded the highest number of Covid-19 cases and deaths in the past seven days, according to statistics compiled by Agence France-Presse and drawn from official sources.
The total daily infections in Denmark exceeded 15,000 for the first time, as health authorities recorded 16,164 cases of Covid-19 within 24 hours.
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The country of 5.8 million people has the highest infection rate in the world, with 1,612 infections per 100,000 people.
Although hospital admissions have risen, they are still below the level seen in January’s wave thanks to vaccine protection, with only seven deaths recorded in the past 24 hours.
Israel tests the fourth bullets
An Israeli hospital on Monday launched a clinical trial on the effect of the fourth Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, while the Health Ministry is considering launching the fourth national vaccine.
The study, conducted by Sheba Medical Center, included 150 volunteers from hospital staff, who had been excluded for at least four months from the third vaccine and had signs of diminished antibodies.
Sheba Infectious Disease Epidemiology Unit Director Gili Regev Yuchi said the study will assess the potential antibody increase from the fourth shot, the presence of adverse effects, and whether the additional booster reduces the risk of infection.
She added that the participants will be monitored for a period of six months.
Nearly 5.4 million dead
The coronavirus has killed at least 5,398,049 people since the disease emerged in China in December 2019, according to a count Monday from official sources compiled by AFP.
Overall, the United States recorded the largest number of Covid deaths with 816,610, followed by Brazil with 618,448, India with 479,997, and Russia with 305,155.
Taking into account the increase in deaths related to Covid-19, the World Health Organization estimates that the total number of deaths could be two to three times higher.
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