More than 3,300 flights have been cancelled around the world – more than 1,900 of them in the United States – as countries report record cases of the coronavirus caused by the Omicron variant.
In Europe, thousands of people defy a ban on gatherings in Amsterdam for a demonstration against the Dutch government’s coronavirus lockdown measures. France says all unvaccinated travellers from the US will need to self-isolate for 10 days.
India reports more than 27,000 new COVID-19 infections – the highest daily count since October. Neighbouring Pakistan warns the country is entering its fifth coronavirus wave.
Here are the latest updates for Sunday:
England and Wales report 137,583 infections
The United Kingdom reported 137,583 new cases of COVID-19 in England and Wales, compared with 162,572 cases in England on Saturday, according to government data.
There were 73 deaths within 28 days of a positive test in England and Wales, a drop on the 154 reported in England on Saturday.
The government said data for Scotland and Northern Ireland would be updated after the New Year holiday.
Secondary students in England to wear masks: Minister
Secondary school students in England will be required to wear face masks when they return to classes after the Christmas holidays.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said Sunday the move was an attempt to “minimise disruption” in schools as the highly transmissible omicron variant drives coronavirus infections in the UK to record levels.
Similar guidance on masks for students ages 11 and above was already in place for schools in Scotland and Wales.
Fauci cites near ‘vertical’ rise in Covid, but sees hope
The United States is experiencing “almost a vertical increase” in Covid cases as the Omicron variant sweeps the country, but the peak may be only weeks away, top US pandemic advisor Anthony Fauci said.
“We are definitely in the middle of a very severe surge and uptick in cases,” Fauci said on ABC’s “This Week,” calling the soaring infection rate “really unprecedented.”
With the Omicron variant of the virus sweeping around the world, more than 440,000 new cases were reported in the US on Friday.
Fauci warns of hospitalisation surge due to large number of COVID cases
Top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said there was still a danger of a surge in hospitalisation due to a large number of coronavirus cases even as early data suggests the Omicron COVID-19 variant is less severe.
“The only difficulty is that if you have so many many cases, even if the rate of hospitalisation is lower with Omicron than it is with Delta, there is still the danger that you will have a surging of hospitalisations that might stress the healthcare system,” Fauci said in an interview with CNN.
Pakistan faces fifth COVID wave: Minister
Pakistan is facing a fifth wave of coronavirus amid surging infections across the country, a senior official said.
Planning Minister Asad Umar, who also heads the country’s anti-virus strategy, said there is “clear evidence” that the fifth wave of the COVID-19 was starting and expected “for last few weeks”.
Clear evidence now of a beginning of another covid wave which has been expected for last few weeks. Genome sequencing showing rising proportion of omicron cases particularly in karachi. Remember : wearing a mask is your best protection
— Asad Umar (@Asad_Umar) January 2, 2022
Bulgaria detects first cases of Omicron
Bulgaria has detected its first 12 cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, the Balkan country’s chief health inspector, Angel Kunchev, said.
“We have confirmed the new variant in samples from 12 people,” Kunchev told reporters.
Kunchev said the infected people, mainly from the capital Sofia, were experiencing mild symptoms and none was hospitalised.
Thousands protests lockdown rules in Amsterdam
Thousands of people defied a ban on gatherings to assemble on an Amsterdam square for a demonstration against the Dutch government’s coronavirus lockdown measures.
The municipality of the Dutch capital had outlawed the protest, saying police had indications some demonstrators could be attending “prepared for violence”.
India reports more than 27,000 cases
Infections in India rose sharply rising for a fifth consecutive day with 27,553 COVID cases in the last 24 hours.
The country’s largest cities, including Delhi and the financial capital Mumbai, have seen a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, including those of the Omicron variant, which has triggered a fresh wave of infections in other parts of the world.
Although the number of active cases in Delhi has tripled in just the last three days, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that hospitalisations had not gone up.
“This means that most people who are coming down with [COVID-19] are not requiring hospital care. They are mild cases,” Kejriwal said in an online briefing.
Thousands of flights cancelled amid virus surge
More than 3,300 flights were cancelled around the world, more than half of them were US flights, adding to the toll of holiday week travel disruptions due to adverse weather and the surge in coronavirus cases caused by the Omicron variant.
Including those delayed but not cancelled, more than 4,800 flights were delayed in total, according to a running tally on the tracking website FlightAware.com.
Heading towards COVID ‘storm’: Israel PM
Israel’s prime minister has warned the country will soon see tens of thousands of new coronavirus cases a day amid the spread of the Omicron virus.
Naftali Bennett said that despite rolling out more than 4.2 million coronavirus booster shots to the country’s population of 9.3 million since July, “the storm is coming to us these very days.”
Unvaccinated US travellers to self-isolate for 10 days: France
Unvaccinated individuals travelling from the US will have to self-isolate in France for 10 days under supervision from local authorities in line with new government restrictions that come into force on Sunday.
All passengers from the US have to provide a negative COVID-19 test – a PCR or an antigen test – no older than 48 hours in addition to proof of vaccination before boarding a flight to France.