With the arrival of the more infectious, but possibly less deadly, coronavirus omicron variant, national governments have been forced to make tough calls on whether to loosen or tighten rules for the holidays, with France limiting public gatherings as the UK promises no new restrictions for New Year’s Eve.
- Monday, French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced that, until January 17, public gatherings will be limited to 2,000 people indoors and 5,000 people outdoors and that working from home will be mandatory for three days per week where possible, France 24 reported.
- UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the UK would impose no new Covid-19 restrictions before the new year, while Health Secretary Sajid Javid urged the public to voluntarily undertake measures like celebrating outdoors or in a well-ventilated indoor space, the Guardian reported.
- From January 3-16, the Greek government will require that bars and restaurants close by midnight, that tables be limited to six seated customers and that entertainment venues allow no standing customers, otherwise the government will “ban music” at those venues, Reuters reported.
- Though Australia recorded its first death due to omicron Monday, health officials decided not to implement new restrictions, saying that surges in omicron infections haven’t caused strain on hospitals, Reuters reported.
- Germany limited private gatherings for vaccinated people to a maximum of 10 and closed clubs and discos, while the city of Hamburg imposed a 1 a.m. curfew for New Year’s Eve, Reuters reported.
- In Canada, response to omicron has varied from region to region, with British Columbia banning all organized indoor gatherings—including New Year’s Eve parties, weddings and funerals— from December 23 to January 18, while Sasketchawan’s current public health order, extending to the end of January, merely requires that people attending indoor public gatherings wear masks, CTV News reported.
The coronavirus omicron variant has quickly become the dominant variant in many parts of the world, accounting for 73.2% of cases in the U.S. and leading to an undersupply of a Covid treatment most successful against omicron. Researchers working independently in England, Scotland and South Africa have found omicron may be less likely to send people to hospitals, the New York Times reported. Nonetheless, in Greece, the emergence of omicron has coincided with a rise in hospitalizations large enough to prompt the government to consider asking private hospitals for support, Reuters reported.
“Corona won’t take a Christmas break,” German chancellor Olaf Scholz remarked while announcing increased public health restrictions.
9,284. That’s how many Covid-19 cases Greece recorded Monday, setting a new record for the country.