COVID: Over 7,000 flights canceled over holiday weekend
Over 7,000 flights were scrapped worldwide during the Christmas weekend as the highly transmissible omicron variant of the coronavirus hindered holiday plans, tracking website Flightaware.com reported on Sunday.
More than 2,000 flights have been scrubbed so far on Sunday with more than 4,000 delays.
On Saturday, more than 2,800 flights were canceled, including nearly 990 flights from or to United States airports alone. Friday saw around 2,400 cancellations.
Chinese airlines accounted for the highest number of groundings, with China Eastern scrapping more than 1,000 flights, over 20% of its flight plan, on Friday and Saturday.
Air China scrapped about 20% of its scheduled departures over the period.
Several airlines, including Lufthansa, Delta and United, are facing staff shortages with pilots, cabin crew and other employees calling in sick or staying in quarantine.
Germany has postponed its goal of inoculating 80% of its population with at least one dose and now wants to reach the target by the end of January, a government spokesperson told newspaper Bild am Sonntag.
The government had planned to achieve the target by January 7. Until now, only 74% of the population is vaccinated and nearly 5.3 million people would need to get their first jabs to meet the original deadline.
However, the goal of 30 million vaccinations by the end of the year is likely to be met by as early as Monday, the Bild am Sonntag reported from government circles.
According to the report, only about 50,000 vaccinations were still pending on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Germany on Sunday reported 10,100 more coronavirus infections and 88 new deaths.
The seven-day incidence dropped to 220.7 per 100,000 people from 242.9 the previous day.
France on Saturday recorded more than 100,000 virus infections in a single day, for the first time since the pandemic began.
More than 1 person in 100 in the Paris region has tested positive in the past week, according to the regional health service.
Most new infections are linked to the omicron variant, which experts predict will be dominant in France in the coming days.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have introduced new restrictions to stem the spread of the new omicron variant.
In Wales, only six people can meet in pubs and restaurants. In Scotland, crowds at large events have been cut to a few hundred spectators.
From Monday, residents of Scotland can only meet in groups of three households. Gatherings in Northern Ireland have also been limited to just a few people.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ruled out stricter measures for England despite record numbers of new cases.
He is under pressure from backbenchers of his own center-right Conservative Party, who resolutely reject further curbs.
The state of emergency in the Czech Republic, introduced by the previous populist government, ended on Sunday. However, new measures will come into effect on Monday.
Adults entering from other EU countries will require a negative PCR test, even if they are fully vaccinated or recovered.
The new government has also reduced the number of spectators at large events.
China on Sunday recorded its highest daily coronavirus caseload in 21 months as infections doubled in the country's latest hotspot, Xian.
The northwestern city, which has a population of 13 million, was entering its fourth day of a strict lockdown, when it reported 155 locally transmitted cases for Saturday, official figures showed on Sunday.
India will vaccinate those between 15 and 18 years of age, and administer booster jabs to frontline workers and some older citizens amid concerns about the omicron variant.
In an address late Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said young people would begin to receive their shots from January 3.
He also said booster doses will be administered beginning January 10 as a "precaution" to health workers as well as those above 60 years with comorbidities, after a recommendation from doctors.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said Sunday it had identified the first case of the omicron coronavirus variant in the Gaza Strip.
The carrier is a Gaza resident who was infected within the coastal territory.
The discovery could pose a new challenge to the enclave's under-developed health system.
In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, three cases of omicron variant had been detected among Palestinians on December 16, and the number had since risen to 23.
Oman now requires foreign travellers aged 18 or older to have received at least two vaccine doses to enter the sultanate, the state news agency reported on Sunday.
The sultanate also canceled a previous decision that suspended entry from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.
Algeria on Sunday implemented a vaccine passport that will be required to enter public venues. The measure is being seen as a way of addressing vaccine hesitancy.
"More than 13 million vaccines risk being out of date if they do not quickly find takers,'' Health Minister Abderrahmane Benbouzid said earlier this month.
Last week professor Riyadh Mahyaoui, who is a leading member of the Algerian government's scientific committee, said that 10 million Algerians had their first inoculation out of a population of 45 million people.
In Australia, the most populous state of New South Wales on Sunday hit a record number of new COVID-19 infections with 6,394 more cases and witnessed a spike in hospitalizations.
Thousands of people are quarantined at home in Australia after testing positive for the virus or coming in contact with someone who has.
Over 70% of infections in the country are from the omicron variant but New South Wales does not conduct genome testing to determine the variant.
However, the state's Health Minister, Brad Hazzard, said on Sunday that omicron is spreading.
"We would expect that pretty well everybody in New South Wales at some point will get omicron,'' he said. "If we're all going to get omicron, the best way to face it is when we have full vaccinations including our booster.''
mm, dvv/dj (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)