NYC scales back new year’s event in Times Square – follow latest covid update

Covid Around The World: How Omicron Is Impacting The Holidays

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio has announced curbs for New Year’s Eve celebrations at Times Square, limiting the crowd to one-fourth of the usually allowed limits and making vaccines certificates and masks mandatory.

The decision comes as the rapid spread of the Omicron variant in the United States has driven the number of daily coronavirus cases beyond the peak of the Delta wave, according to multiple estimates based on official data which suggested a daily average of more than 165,000 newly reported infections.

It came as the UK reported a record surge of coronavirus cases for the second consecutive day, with the 119,789 new cases coming after infections exceeded 100,000 for the first time on Wednesday – although the actual figures are undoubtedly far higher.

NHS England’s national medical director Stephen Powis warned that the NHS is on a “war footing”, as it grapples with a sharp rise in the number of staff off sick with Covid-19, amid rising hospital admissions.


UK government threatened with legal challenge over Covid passes

A civil liberties campaign group has threatened the government with a legal challenge over the introduction of “discriminatory” Covid passes for large venues in England.

Big Brother Watch, which works to “roll back the surveillance state”, said that if Mr Johnson does not scrap the Covid passes “we will seek to make our case in court”.

The group described the certification scheme, which requires members of the public to show either proof of a Covid-19 vaccination or a negative lateral flow test, as “draconian, discriminatory and pointless”.

Our Political Correspondent Ashley Cowburn has more:

Stuti Mishra24 December 2021 06:20


UK, EU, and US received more vaccines in six weeks than Africa did in the whole of 2021

New analysis by the People’s Vaccine Alliance (PVA) has shown the UK, European Union and the US have received more vaccines in the last six weeks than the African continent has received throughout this year, writes Amanda Coakley.

According to the data, between 11 November and 21 December, wealthier countries have gotten hold of 513 million doses, while African countries have acquired only 500 million doses over 12 months.

The majority of Covid vaccines delivered to the African continent this year have been sporadic donations often close to their expiry date.

Stuti Mishra24 December 2021 05:53


Australia shortens booster wait

Australia has narrowed down the wait time for Covid booster shots on Friday after another jump in daily cases is reported.

From 4 January, the country will offer booster shots to anyone aged over 18 who has received the second dose at least four months earlier.

The interval would be again reduced to three months by the end of January, federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said.

“These dates have been set out of an abundance of caution to give Australians early continued protection,” Mr Hunt told reporters in Canberra.

Australia has reported 9,100 new Covid cases on Friday with a jump of around 900 cases recorded a day before. With rising numbers, there has been increased pressure on the government to make more people eligible for the third jab.

Stuti Mishra24 December 2021 05:32


NYC announces restrictions for New Year’s Eve celebrations at Times Square

Only fully vaccinated people will be allowed to gather at the New Year’s Eve celebrations on Times Square, Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced, along with several other new curbs.

Masks will be mandatory while only 15,000 people will be allowed to gather at the venue, four times less than the usual crowd of 58,000.

In addition, visitors will not be allowed in until 3pm, which is much later than previous years.

“There is a lot to celebrate and these additional safety measures will keep the fully vaccinated crowd safe and healthy as we ring in the new year,” Mr de Blasio said in a statement.

The restrictions come as NYC reports 38,835 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, with the surge in recent days mostly led by the new Omicron variant.

Stuti Mishra24 December 2021 05:05


Dozens of Christmas Eve flights cancelled in the US

Dozens of Christmas Eve flights in the US have been cancelled as rising cases of the Omicron variant takes a toll on its flight crews and other workers, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines said on Thursday.

Chicago-based United cancelled 120 flights for Friday, while Atlanta-based Delta said it has cancelled about 90. Both said they were working to contact passengers so they would not be stranded at airports.

“The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation. As a result, we’ve, unfortunately, had to cancel some flights and are notifying impacted customers in advance of them coming to the airport,” United said.

Delta said it has “exhausted all options and resources — including rerouting and substitutions of aircraft and crews to cover scheduled flying — before cancelling around 90 flights for Friday.”

Delta cited potential inclement weather and the impact of the Omicron variant for the cancellations.

Stuti Mishra24 December 2021 04:33


We should all be scrapping ‘superspreader’ Christmas

Thinking about getting together for Christmas? Think again.

Sean O’Grady argues in his new Voices column that skipping the big holiday gatherings this year is in everyone’s best interest.

As he writes: “Omicron will think all its Christmasses have come at once. The spike will arrive in a week or two, boosting the current exponential growth still further – and it will break the NHS. It isn’t worth it. Granny won’t be back next year.”

Stuti Mishra24 December 2021 04:00


More Marines discharged over vaccine refusal, total at 169

The Marine Corps discharged 66 Marines in the past week for refusing to get the coronavirus vaccine as mandated by the military, outpacing the other services at discipline related to the shots.

The latest Corps actions, which came as COVID-19 cases surged across the country as a result of the omicron variant, brought the total number of Marines booted out of the service for vaccine refusal to 169.

Read more on the controversy here.

The Oklahoma National Guard has also resisted vaccine mandates.

Josh Marcus24 December 2021 03:05


AstraZeneca and Novavax both say their vaccines protect against Omicron variant

Pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and Novavax have both announced that their Covid-19 vaccines provide protection against the new Omicron variant.

AstraZeneca said in a statement on Thursday that an Oxford University study found that three doses of its vaccine – the initial two-dose vaccine followed by a booster shot – are effective against the variant.

The three doses gave patients a similar antibody level against Omicron as two doses of the vaccine did against the Delta variant, they said..

The Independent’s Rachel Sharp has more.

Josh Marcus24 December 2021 02:05


Search for a COVID-19 test means sold-out signs, long lines

President Joe Biden promised to distribute hundreds of millions of free COVID-19 tests and to open more testing sites to fight surging infections, but the stepped-up efforts will not come in time for people who want to find out if they are infected before the holidays.

Americans have been searching drugstores for scarce home tests or waiting hours in chilly temperatures at testing facilities across the country.

“Not everyone can take three hours off work to get tested, but it feels like it’s the only thing we have the power to do,” said Jordan Thomas, who waited nearly four hours for a test this week in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.

More info on the struggle to access testing in the US here.

Josh Marcus24 December 2021 01:05


‘That’s not a plan, that’s a hope’: Johns Hopkins expert questions Biden’s Covid test kit pledge

Joe Biden‘s promise to deliver 500m at home Covid tests to Americans nationwide is ambitious, but some health officials worry that the initiative is unrealistic and ultimately ineffective.

Dr Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, spoke with The New York Times about how the program’s rollout will ultimately determine its efficacy.

“If those tests came in January and February, that could have an impact, but if they are spread out over 10 to 12 months, I’m not sure what kind of impact it is going to have,” she said.

The Independent’s Graig Graziosi has more.

Josh Marcus24 December 2021 00:05

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