COVID infections hit record highs across Europe
Countries across Europe have reported a record high number of infections as authorities scramble to stem the surge. On Tuesday, the UK saw a record 129,471 new COVID cases, up from 98,515 reported on Monday. More than 500 children were admitted to hospital with COVID in England in the week up to Boxing Day. France reported 179,807 new cases – by far the highest number since the start of the pandemic. Greece also reported a new daily record of 21,657 COVID cases, more than double the number the day before. Denmark and Iceland similarly broke pandemic records with Denmark recording the world’s highest infection rate at 1,612 cases per 100,000 people. Meanwhile, Finland has blocked the entry of all unvaccinated foreign travellers.
Risk linked to Omicron remains very high – WHO
“The global risk linked to the new worrying variant remains very high,” warns the World Health Organisation in its weekly epidemiological bulletin. “Reliable evidence shows that Omicron has a growth advantage over the Delta variant, with a capacity to double in two or three days,” adds the organisation, noting further that “there is a rapid increase in the incidence of cases in a number of villages”. It says, “The rapid growth is probably linked to a combination of the loss of immunity and the intrinsic increase in transmissibility of the Omicron variant.” However, more data would be needed to understand Omicron’s severity in terms of clinical markers, including oxygen use, mechanical ventilation and deaths. According to WHO, in the week ending Sunday, the total number of new cases increased by 11% compared to the previous one, while the number of deaths decreased by 4%. “This corresponds to just under five million new cases and over 44,000 new deaths.” The largest number of cases were recorded in the United States, United Kingdom, France and Italy.
Palestinian President meets Israeli Defence Minister
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas paid a rare visit to Israel on Tuesday for talks with Israel’s Defense Minister – the latest in a series of meetings by top Israeli officials with the Palestinian leader and the first Abbas meeting with an Israeli official in Israel since 2010. The late-night, two-and-a-half-hour meeting took place at Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s home in central Israel. A top aide to Abbas said the meeting “dealt with the importance of creating a political horizon” as well as “the tense field conditions due to the practices of the settlers”. He said security, economic and humanitarian issues were also discussed. Abbas, whose government administers autonomous areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, seeks an independent state that includes all of the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
Over 500,000 cases in the US
In the United States, over 500,000 new cases of COVID have been recorded in 24 hours – the highest number since the beginning of the pandemic. In New York City, the positivity rate over the past seven days has been 20%.
Hundreds more US flights cancelled
US airlines Delta Air Lines and Alaska Air Group cancelled hundreds of flights on Tuesday due to adverse weather conditions and rising cases of the Omicron variant. Delta said it expected to cancel more than 250 of 4,133 scheduled flights, while Alaska Air cancelled 150 flights to and from Seattle, and warned of more cancellations and delays throughout the day. Total cancellations within, into, or out of the United States stood at 1,034, with 2,694 flights delayed, marking a fifth day of flight cancellations.
Omicron: yellow alert in New Delhi
New restrictions have been imposed in New Delhi to combat the emergence of cases of the Omicron variant. Schools will be closed again, public transport will travel at half capacity, and only 50% of customers are allowed in restaurants, bars and all other public places. Cinemas, clubs, theatres, gyms and all amusement parks are closed. No more than 20 people would be admitted to weddings and funerals.
China says Musk’s satellites are dangerous
Beijing has accused the United States of irresponsible and dangerous conduct in space due to two “close encounters” between the Chinese space station and the satellites of the Starlink company of the American billionaire founder of Tesla, Elon Musk. According to a note by the Chinese government to the UN space agency, the new Chinese space station was forced to carry out emergency maneuvers in July and October to avoid collision with the satellites of the future Internet service Starlink.