Global Review – 21st December

Omicron: WHO urges cancelling holiday events

The World Health Organisation has urged people to cancel some of their holiday plans to protect public health as the Omicron variant spreads globally. WHO head Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “An event cancelled is better than a life cancelled”, adding that “difficult decisions” must be made. He stressed that the pandemic could be ended in 2022 by ensuring that 70% of the population in every country of the world was vaccinated by the middle of next year. Dr Tedros’ comments come as a number of countries have tightened COVID restrictions and imposed travel curbs to try to halt the spread of the new variant.

London cancels New Year celebrations

Because of the drastic increase in cases of Omicron, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has announced the cancellation of the celebrations planned in the British capital for the New Year, incuding the 6,500-strong New Year celebration in Trafalgar Square. The centrepiece of the New Year celebrations in London will be “a great live show” on the BBC.

Omicron kills 12 in the UK

British Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told ‘Times Radio’ that the variant has killed 12 people in the UK so far. Raab added that 104 variant-positive patients are currently in hospital. A further 91,743 COVID-19 cases were reported across the UK on Monday.

US also records first death to Omicron

ABC News quotes health officials in Texas saying the state recorded the first death related to Omicron – believed to be the first known recorded Omicron death in the United States. The victim was a man in his 50s, who was unvaccinated and had underlying health conditions. The Omicron variant accounts for 73% of US coronavirus infections last week – and 92% of cases in New York and New Jersey. New York could revise plans for traditional New Year’s Eve celebrations in Times Square, an attraction for hundreds of thousands of Big Apple citizens and tourists. Mayor Bill de Blasio will decide before Christmas. Notwithstanding, the White House said on Monday that President Biden was not planning on “locking the country down”. The State Department has advised Americans against travel to Spain, Finland, Chad, Lebanon, Bonaire, Monaco, San Marino and Gibraltar.

Ghislaine Maxwell: jury sent to deliberate

On Monday a New York jury began considering the fate of Ghislaine Maxwell, the 59-year-old British socialite accused of recruiting and grooming young girls to be abused by late financier Jeffrey Epstein between 1994 and 2004. If Maxwell is found guilty of all charges, she faces an effective life sentence.

Belarus diplomat hurt in London embassy ‘attack’

Belarus said Monday one of its diplomats ended up with a broken nose, a mild concussion and a missing tooth following an attack on its embassy in London. The attack came amid international backlash over the migrant influx at its border with Poland.

‘Five Eyes’ express concerns over Hong Kong polls

The UK and four other nations, who share an intelligence partnership called the ‘Five Eyes’, have expressed their “grave concerns” after pro-Beijing candidates claimed victory in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council elections. The foreign ministers of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom and the US Secretary of State urged China to “act in accordance with its international obligations”.

Church in Spain faces major abuse investigation

Spain’s Catholic Church is to open an investigation into alleged sex abuse of hundreds of children by 251 priests and some lay people from religious institutions dating back 80 years that the newspaper ‘El Pais’ has uncovered. The Pope was give the 385-page dossier of the investigation, as journalists were flying from Rome to Cyprus. The number of victims is at least 1,237 and the allegations concern 31 religious orders and 31 of the country’s 70 dioceses. The oldest case dates back to 1942 and the most recent to 2018.

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