India freezes Mother Teresa bank accounts
The Indian government has frozen all bank accounts of the Missionaries of Charity, the order founded by Mother Teresa and refused to renew permission for the institution to receive much-needed foreign funds. The Foreign Ministry said it did not renew permission because of “some adverse input” but it did not provide details. In the past, Hindu right-wing groups had accused the charity of carrying out religious conversions by offereing food, free education and shelter to poor Hindus and people from indegenous communities. The organisation has denied the allegations. One church leader described the freezing of accounts as “a cruel Christmas ‘gift’ for the poorest of the poor”. The missionaries have thousands of nuns supervising projects such as homes of abandonned children, schools, clinics and hospicies. Some 22,000 patients of the order’s hospitals and employees have been left without food and medicine.
US halves isolation time
The United States has halved the recommended isolation time for people with asymptomatic COVIDinfections from 10 to five days. The Centre for Disease Control said that this must be followed by five days of wearing a mask around others. The Centre said the change is “motivated by science”, demonstrating that most transmission happens early in the course of illness.
France tightens restrictions
France has become the latest European country to tighten restrictions to curb the spread of the Omicron variant as the government is bracing itself for a massive wave next month, fearing figures could go up to 250,000 cases a day. Home working is to become the norm for at least three days a week, there will be no standing service in bars and cafes, and crowds would be limited to 5,000 at outdoor events and 2,000 indoors. Face masks are being made mandatory outside in city centres.
No new COVID rules in UK before new year
There will be no further COVID restrictions in England before the new year, Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said. But he warned people should “remain cautious” and celebrate outside on New Year’s Eve, if possible. Meanwhile, both England and Scotland reported record cases over Christmas. New infections reported in England during the last three days were 113,628 on 25 December, 103,558 on 26 December and 98,515 on 27 December. Provisional data for Scotland for the same three days showed there were 8,252 cases on Christmas Day, with 11,030 the following day and 10,562 on Monday. Scotland closed its nightclubs Monday after Northern Ireland and Wales already did so on Sunday, though they remain open in England.
New measures in Belgium
Several new measures came into force in Belgium on Monday. Shopping was reduced to maximum two adults, possibly with kids in tow, and cinemas and concert halls were closed. Nightclubs are already closed and restaurants and bars need to shut doors at 11pm. The hypothesis of compulsory vaccination is also gaining ground in Belgium: Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told ‘De Zondag’ newspaper, that “the goal is clear: we must vaccinate everyone and if the path of compulsory vaccination can help, I am ready to consider it”. De Croo’s position is supported by his party, the liberals of Open Vld, according to which only the vaccinated must have access to theatres, restaurants, cafes and all other public meeting places.
Chaos as more than 2,000 flights are cancelled again
The heavy inconvenience to air traffic around the world continues, after more than 2,000 flights were cancelled on Monday, according to the specialised site Flightaware. Particularly affected remain the United States, where nearly a quarter of all cancelled flights will remain on the ground, and China.
Globe soccer awards to Italy
Italy has won the award as the best national football team of 2021. The European champions have gained recognition during the Globe Soccer Awards in Dubai. Roberto Mancini won the award for best coach, Leonardo Bonucci, best defender, and Gianluigi Donnarumma, as goalkeeper of the year.