G7 health ministers meet to discuss Omicron
Britain will hold an urgent meeting of G7 health ministers today to discuss developments on the new variant of the coronavirus Omicron as it kept spreading around the world on Sunday with 13 cases found in the Netherlands and two each in Denmark and Australia, even as more countries imposed travel restrictions to try to seal themselves off. First discovered in South Africa, Omicron has now been detected in Britain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, Botswana, Israel, Australia and Hong Kong. Botswana said it had detected 15 more cases of the variant, adding to the four confirmed cases it declared on Friday.
Dutch arrest quarantine-fleeing couple
Dutch border police say they have arrested a couple who fled from a quaratine hotel near Shiphol airport in Amsterdam. One had been isolating after testing positive from arrival from South Africa. The couple managed to board a flight for Spain but were caught just before take-off. Health authorities said 13 cases of the variant were found among people on two flights that arrived in Amsterdam from South Africa on Friday.
‘EU needs to buy time on Omicron’
The European Union needs to buy time to fully assess the implications of the new Omicron coronavirus variant and to prepare, notably by pushing for greater vaccination rates. Speaking during a visit to Latvia, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said on Sunday she took the variant seriously. “We know that we are in a race against time … And the scientists and manufacturers need two to three weeks to have a full picture about the quality of the mutations of this Omicron variant.”
Swiss voters back government’s COVID-19 response plan
Swiss voters on Sunday backed the government’s pandemic response plan by a bigger than expected majority in a referendum, paving the way for the continuation of exceptional measures to stem the rising tide of COVID-19 cases. Some 62% voted in favour of a law passed earlier this year to provide financial aid to people hit by the COVID-19 crisis and laying the foundation for certificates giving proof of COVID-19 vaccination, recovery or a negative test. These are currently required to enter bars, restaurants and certain events.
‘Americans should be prepared to fight new variant’
The top US infectious disease official, Anthony Fauci, said Americans should be prepared to fight the spread of the new variant, but that it was not yet clear what measure such as mandates or lockdowns would be needed. He has said the variant is likely already in the country, although no cases have been confirmed.
Trump Jr praises no vax protests in Europe
Donald Trump Jr, eldest son of the former US president, praised the wave of no vax and no green pass protests in Europe and accused most Americans of not doing the same: “They are like sheep, and they sit and watch instead of fight against any restrictions imposed by the pandemic.” In an interview with Fox News, he also pointed the finger at the main American media saying it was guilty of keeping silent about the demonstrations in Europe.
Pandemic cost tourism industry $1 trillion
The UN World Tourism Organisation says the pandemic would have cost the world tourism sector a trillion dollars in lost revenue this year. It does not expect it to recover in 2022.
Frontex plane to scout English Channel
A Frontex agency aircraft will be deployed as of Wednesday to “fly day and night” over the English Channel to spot migrant crossings after 27 people died last week trying to cross the Channel. French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin was speaking to reporters at the end of the meeting in Calais with the ministers of the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, as well as with the European Commissioner for Internal Affairs. He said France was ready for a serious discussion with Britain on issues relating to illegal migration, but would not be held hostage to London’s domestic politics. Britain was not invited for the meeting.
Honduras’ Castro in the lead
Leftist opposition candidate Xiomara Castro has raced to an early lead in the Honduran presidential election on Sunday, putting her in pole position to become the first female leader of the Central American country. She is about 20% ahead of the candidate of the governing National Party. Both have claimed victory on social media.
Ghislaine Maxwell on trial today
One of the most anticipated trials of recent years opens today in New York: that of Ghislaine Maxwell, the British heiress accused in the US of having lured teenagers to ‘offer’ them to the tycoon Jeffrey Epstein who abused them sexually. The case received enormous media attention because it involved, even if only marginally, several important personalities from the world of politics and entertainment who were linked to Epstein, among others Prince Andrew, the third son of Queen Elizabeth II, Bill Gates and the former US president, Bill Clinton.
Politician cycles to hospital in labour, gives birth
New Zealand Member of Parliament Julie Anne Genter got on her bicycle early on Sunday and headed to hospital. She was already in labour and she gave birth an hour later. “Big news!” the Greens politician posted on her Facebook page a few hours later. “At 3.04 am this morning we welcomed the newest member of our family (a girl). I genuinely wasn’t planning to cycle in labour, but it did end up happening.” The island nation of five million already has a reputation for down-to-earth politicians. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern famously took maternity leave while in office and brought her three-month old to a UN meeting as she was still breastfeeding.