World rings in another pandemic Christmas
Omicron’s rise has heralded another pandemic-tinged Christmas for billions, with Santa’s arrival and longed-for family reunions overshadowed by the prospect of yet more COVID restrictions. The emergence of the ultra-infectious COVID-19 variant means the pandemic isn’t going anywhere. For a second straight year, surging infections have complicated yuletide plans almost everywhere. In Bethlehem, Jesus’ birthplace, hoteliers expecting an influx of tourists have been disappointed: the crowds were scarce in Manger Square, where Bethlehem usually sees thousands of tourists and foreign pilgrims. The occupied West Bank city had to settle for tight celebrations once again, with Israel – which controls access to this Palestinian territory – closing its borders to limit the spread of Omicron.In Europe, governments are reimposing misery-inducing safety measures that are draining the fun from Christmas for many. The Netherlands is back in lockdown while Spain and Italy have made wearing masks compulsory outdoors. And with the United Kingdom recording a record high number of infections on Friday – 122,186 – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested getting a vaccine booster shot as a Christmas gift for relatives. However, Pope Francis still said the traditional Christmas Eve mass at St Peter’s Basilica in front of 1,500 people, calling for more solidarity with those living in poverty and urging one and all to value the little things in life.
COVID cancels over 2,000 flights
More than 2,000 flights worldwide were canceled Friday following the COVID emergency – a quarter of which were in the United States. On Christmas Eve, Global Airlines blamed shortage of healthy staff for the cancellation of more than 2,300 flights on Friday and 1,200 today. Australia also cancelled more than 100 domestic flights from Sydney and Melbourne to other cities. Despite the upheaval, many Australians may be celebrating the fact they can travel between states over the holidays for the first time in two years.
US revokes travel ban
The United States has announced that the ban on travel from eight countries in southern Africa, imposed following the identification of the Omicron variant, will be lifted from December 31. The ban had received criticism from WHO and the UN. Travellers from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi had been blocked since November.
Libya urged to reschedule presidential poll
Five Western nations have urged Libya to set a new date for presidential elections that were due to have taken place yesterday. In a joint statement, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the US called on the Libyan authorities to respect the aspirations of the Libyan people and promptly reschedule the poll.
Dozens killed in Bangladesh ferry fire
At least 39 people were killed and about 100 others injured after a packed ferry caught fire in southern Bangladesh. The blaze on the three-decked vessel started mid-river near the town of Jhalakathi as it sailed from the capital Dhaka to the town of Barguna. Some of the victims drowned after jumping into the water. The number of casualties in Friday’s disaster is likely to increase as many of the passengers have severe burns. As many as 500 people were reportedly on board the vessel.
LadBaby score historic fourth
YouTube stars and charity campaigners LadBaby have claimed the UK’s Christmas number one single for a record-breaking fourth year in a row. ‘Sausage Rolls For Everyone’, the duo’s collaboration with Ed Sheeran and Sir Elton John, hit the top spot on Friday. LadBaby have now surpassed the Beatles and the Spice Girls as the act with the most consecutive Christmas number ones. They have become the first act to score four Christmas number ones in a row.
We wish our readers a safe and merry Christmas!