Coronavirus Omicron India December 19 Highlights: Deja Vu? Maharashtra reports nearly 1,000 new infections today – The Financial Express

December 20, 2021
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The Financial Express

India reported 7,081 new Covid-19 cases, 7,469 recoveries, and 264 deaths in the last 24 hours, according to the data shared by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Sunday morning. The Ministry shared that the active cases account for less than 1% of total cases which is the lowest since March 2020. India’s active caseload currently stands at 83,913 which is the lowest in 570 days whereas the recovery rate is at 98.38%.
#Unite2FightCorona#LargestVaccineDrive#OmicronVariant

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With three more people testing positive for Omicron variant in Maharashtra, and Karnataka and Kerala recording six and four Omicron cases respectively, India’s total tally of the new variant rose to 126 on Saturday. The World Health Organisation (WHO) informed on Saturday that the Omicron coronavirus variant has been reported in 89 countries and the number of cases is doubling in 1.5 to 3 days in areas with community transmission. The WHO further added that Omicron is spreading faster in countries which have high levels of population immunity. However, it is unclear if this is due to the virus’ ability to evade immunity, its increased transmissibility or a combination of both.

The government of India has been time and again warning people to avoid mass gatherings and travelling, unless absolutely necessary. The state governments have also jumped to action with some implementing new guidelines and some imposing lockdowns as a precautionary measure. The Delhi government on Saturday announced that it had converted four private hospitals into Omicron dedicated centres. These hospitals are Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Max (Saket), Fortis (Vasant Kunj) & Batra Hospital (Tughlakabad). A total of 5 hospitals in Delhi, including LNJP hospital, will now provide the treatment for the variant. Delhi Chief Minister on Saturday assured that the state government is ready to tackle the Omicron variant of Coronavirus. He advised people not to panic saying even though the variant was said to spread faster than the previous ones, its symptoms were mild. He also said that Delhi might not face another wave of infections, since according to the Sero survey conducted by the Delhi government, 96 per cent of the state population was found to have antibodies and a majority of them were vaccinated, news agency PTI reported.
Taking cognisance of the rising number of Omicron cases, the Tamil Nadu government requested the Centre on Saturday to issue further set of guidelines on testing international passengers arriving in the state after a person from a ‘non-risk country’ recently tested Omicron positive. According to news agency PTI, Director of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Dr T S Selvavinayagam in his letter to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Secretary Rajesh Bhushan requested that international passengers arriving in Tamil Nadu should undergo mandatory post-arrival testing of Covid-19 as against the current practice of testing only those passengers who arrive from ‘at risk’ countries. In other development, drone services have been launched to supply Covid-19 vaccines to remote areas of Jawahar Taluka in Palghar, Maharashtra.
Internationally speaking, Egypt and Ukraine announced their first cases of Omicron variant on Saturday. Mexico recorded 2,530 new coronavirus cases and 268 additional deaths on Saturday, as per the health ministry data. Germany logged 6,764,188 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 108,053 Covid-19 deaths.
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India's Omicron COVID count rose to 151 on Sunday after Maharashtra reported six more cases while a 45-year-old NRI and a teenage boy, who recently arrived in Gujarat from the United Kingdom, also tested positive for the variant. According to central and state officials, omicron cases have been detected in 11 states and union territories — Maharashtra (54), Delhi (22), Rajasthan (17) and Karnataka (14), Telangana (20), Gujarat (9), Kerala (11), Andhra Pradesh (1), Chandigarh (1), Tamil Nadu (1) and West Bengal (1). Six persons tested positive for the Omicron variant of coronavirus in Maharashtra on Sunday, raising the state's tally of such cases to 54, the health department said. While two of these patients had a history of travel to Tanzania, two others had returned from England and one from the Middle East. All five of them are fully vaccinated. Another patient is a five-year-old boy from Junnar in Pune who is a close contact of Dubai travellers from Junnar, it said in a statement. – PTI

Italy reported 97 coronavirus-related deaths on Sunday against 123 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections declined to 24,259 from 28,064.Italy has registered 135,641 deaths linked to COVID-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second highest toll in Europe after Britain and the ninth highest in the world.It has reported 5.389 million cases to date.Patients in hospital with COVID-19 – not including those in intensive care – stood at 7,726 on Sunday, up from 7,576 a day earlier.There were 78 new admissions to intensive care units, down from 95 on Saturday. The total number of intensive care patients increased to 966 from a previous 953.Some 566,300 tests for COVID-19 were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 697,740, the health ministry said. – Reuters

Mizoram's COVID-19 tally on Sunday surged to 1,39,455 as 117 more people tested positive for the infection, a health department official said. The COVID-19 death toll remained at 531 as no new fatality was reported in the last 24 hours, he said. The single-day positivity rate was 6.41 per cent as the fresh cases were detected from 1,825 samples tested, he said. Aizawl district reported the highest number of fresh cases at 58, followed by Serchhip (15) and Champhai (13). Mizoram currently has 2,565 active COVID-19 cases, while 1,36,359 people have recovered from the disease so far, including 192 people on Sunday, the official added. – PTI

Goa's COVID-19 tally increased by 48 to touch 1,79,742 on Sunday, while the death toll remained unchanged at 3,485, an official said. So far, 1,75,851 people have recovered from the infection, including 31 on Sunday, leaving the coastal state with an active tally of 406, he said. With 2,243 samples being examined in the last 24 hours, the number of cases in Goa went up to 15,97,254, he added. Goa's COVID-19 figures: Positive cases 1,79,742, new cases 48, death toll 3485, discharged 175851, active cases 406, samples tested till date 15,97,254. PTI

Maharashtra on Sunday reported 902 new coronavirus positive cases, taking the state's infection tally to 66,49,596, while nine deaths put the toll at 1,41,349, an official said. The discharge of 767 people from hospitals during the day took the recovery count to 64,97,500, leaving the state with 7,068 active cases, he said. Maharashtra's COVID-19 recovery rate is 97.71 per cent and the fatality rate stands at 2.12 per cent, he added. With 1,13,735 samples being examined during the day, the overall test count in Maharashtra went up to 6,76,84,674. A state health department release said that Mumbai city reported 321 new cases and two deaths, taking the metropolis' tally to 7,67,050 and toll to 16,365. Mumbai division, which comprises the city and its satellite townships, reported 532 cases, it said. – PTI

Sri Lanka will require the showing of a COVID-19 vaccination certificate compulsory for entry to public places starting from January 1, in a renewed attempt to prevent another spike in infections. Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga made the announcement Sunday in an abrupt switch from the gradual ending of restrictions put into place after the country was confronted with a third wave of COVID-19 infections in April caused by the Delta variant. Ranatunga said health officials were drawing up arrangements on implementing the decisions, according to a government statement. Since Sri Lanka lifted a six-week lockdown on October 1, life has begun returning to normal, with the reopening of cinemas, restaurants and wedding parties. Restrictions put into place after the country was faced with a third wave of COVID-19 infections caused by the Delta variant in April have been gradually lifted. AP
The number of COVID-19 cases in Nashik touched 4,13,248 on Sunday after 42 people were detected with the infection, while one death took the toll to 8,746, an official said. So far, 4,04,056 people have recovered, including 15 on Sunday, he said. With 2,567 samples being examined during the day, the number of tests in Nashik went up to 29,75,450, he added. PTI

Himachal Pradesh recorded two coronavirus-related deaths on Sunday taking the toll to 3,851, while 29 fresh cases pushed the number of infections to 2,28,295, an official said. An 85-year-old man in Mandi and an 80-year-old woman in Shimla succumbed to the virus, he added. The number of active cases now stood at 491 in the state. Besides, 46 more patients recovered from the infection, taking the recovery count to 2,23,936, the health official said. PTI

As many as 134 fresh coronavirus cases were reported in Telangana on Sunday, pushing the total positives to 6,79,564, while the toll climbed to 4,015 with one more fatality. The number of active cases stood at 3,693, a state health department bulletin said. The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) accounted for the highest number of cases with 82, followed by Ranga Reddy 9. A total 201 people recovered from the infectious disease today and the cumulative number of recoveries till date was 6,71,856, the bulletin said. It said 25,900 samples were tested today and the total number tested till date was 2.92 crore. The samples tested per million population were 7,86,815. – PTI
With 300 fresh cases, Karnataka's COVID-19 aggregate touched 30,02,427 on Sunday, while one death took the cumulative fatalities to 38,288. The health department said in its bulletin that 279 people were discharged, taking the total number of recoveries to 29,56,970. Active cases stood at 7,140. Bengaluru Urban remained the major contributor of COVID cases as the city reported 168 infections. Other districts too had new cases including 37 in Dakshina Kannada, 13 in Mysuru, 11 in Hassan and 10 in Kodagu. Udupi was the only district which reported a death while there were zero fatalities in 30 districts. The positivity rate for the day was 0.26 per cent and the case fatality rate was 0.33 per cent. – PTI

The Kremlin is convinced that the World Health Organization (WHO) will recognise Russia's flagship Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine within a few months, the Interfax news agency cited Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov as saying on Sunday.The Kremlin on Tuesday said Russia had still not handed over all the information needed for the vaccine to be approved by the WHO because of differences in regulatory standards. Reuters

Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday recorded 136 new cases of coronavirus, taking the infection tally to 3,39,827 while one more fatality due to the virus pushed the death toll to 4,512, officials said. Of the fresh cases, 114 were reported from the Kashmir division and 22 from the Jammu division, they said. Srinagar district recorded the highest of 50 cases followed by 19 cases in Baramulla district. There are 1,451 active cases in the Union Territory, while the number of recovered patients is 3,33,864, officials said. Meanwhile, there are 50 confirmed cases of mucormycosis (black fungus) in the Union Territory as no fresh case was reported since Saturday evening, they said. PTI

Nagaland on Sunday did not report any fresh COVID-19 case, while two persons recuperated from the disease, an official said. The COVID-19 tally in the state remained at 32,169, the official said. The state had reported four coronavirus cases on Saturday. The COVID-19 death toll in the north-eastern state remained at 701 as no new fatality was recorded for the third consecutive day on Sunday, he said. The state now has 82 active COVID-19 cases, while 30,317 people have recovered from the disease, including two patients on Sunday, the official said. At least 1,069 coronavirus patients have migrated to other states. State Immunisation Officer Dr Ritu Thurr said 13,27,268 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to 7,57,196 people till Saturday. PTI

The national capital on Sunday recorded 107 fresh COVID-19 cases, the highest since June 27, and one death as the positivity rate stood at 0.17 per cent, according to data shared by the city health department. On June 27, Delhi had logged 259 coronavirus cases with four deaths, according to the government data. The city logged 86 new cases on Saturday and 69 on Friday. The rise in daily cases comes amid the Omicron scare in Delhi as the total number of patients infected with the latest variant of the coronavirus jumped by 12 on Friday to reach 22. The number of Covid cases recorded in Delhi so far has reached 14,42,197. Over 14.16 lakh patients have recovered from the disease. The death toll due to the coronavirus infection in Delhi stands at 25,101. Three deaths due to COVID-19 have been recorded in December so far in Delhi. Seven COVID-19 deaths were reported in November, four in October and five in September. PTI

Sikkim recorded four new COVID-19 cases, one less than the previous day, taking the virus tally to 32,461, a health department bulletin said on Sunday. East Sikkim district registered three cases, while West Sikkim logged one case in the last 24 hours, it said. The Himalayan state now has 105 active COVID-19 cases, while 31,609 people have recovered from the disease so far and 341 patients have migrated to other states, the bulletin said. The COVID-19 death toll remained at 406 as no new fatality was reported in the last 24 hours. Sikkim has so far tested 2,76,705 samples for COVID-19, including 281 in the last 24 hours. The COVID-19 daily positivity rate is 1.4 per cent and the recovery rate is 98.4 per cent, it added. PTI
Brexit minister, Lord David Frost, has resigned as the man in charge of overseeing matters related to Britain's exit from the European Union (EU) amid opposition to “coercive” lockdown restrictions due to a surge of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. (PTI)
Israel's prime minister warned citizens against the spread of the new, highly infectious variant of coronavirus on Sunday and urged them to vaccinate. Naftali Bennett told ministers that there was already community transmission of the omicron variant in Israel and a rise in the country's coronavirus infection rate. He called the omicron variant “very infectious.” “It must be understood that the collective and national protection that the state provides is not enough,” Bennett said at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting. He urged Israelis that “every citizen must see to themselves, their family, and their children. Don't rely on the neighbours to vaccinate themselves and their child. It won't help much.” Israel rolled out a world-leading vaccination campaign, and more than 4.1 million of Israel's 9.3 million people have received a third dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. The country's health ministry has reported at least 134 confirmed cases of the omicron variant since its emergence in late November. Israel largely closed its international borders after the emergence of the omicron variant. Foreign nationals are not allowed to enter, and all Israelis arriving from overseas are required to quarantine — including those vaccinated. Israel has recorded at least 8,232 deaths from coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. (AP)
More than 10,000 new Omicron cases have been reported in the UK in the highest daily surge so far, as the number of overall COVID-19 infections stood well above 90,000 cases. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has confirmed an additional 10,059 cases of the new variant on Saturday, more than three times as many as reported on Friday (3,201), taking the total number of cases to 24,968. A total of 90,418 infections have also been reported, as the UK's COVID-19 daily deaths tally stood at 125, up on Friday's count of 111, but down on the 132 reported last Saturday. The death toll from the Omicron variant jumped from one to seven. “We've shown in the past as government in dealing with this pandemic that we will do what is necessary, but it's got to be backed up by data,” UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid said in reference to reports that the government is planning tighter lockdown restrictions due to the Omicron surge. “We are watching the data and discussing it with our scientists and our best advisers almost on an hourly basis. We will monitor very carefully, and keep the situation under review,” he explained. Ministers have received a briefing on the latest COVID-19 data and a meeting of the Cabinet Office Briefing Room A emergency committee will be held over the weekend to assess if further measures are to be brought in. (PTI)
Italy's government is considering new measures to avoid a surge in COVID-19 infections during the holiday period, local newspapers reported on Sunday, amid worries over the spread of the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant. After holding a meeting with ministers on Dec. 23, Prime Minister Mario Draghi could impose an obligation on the vaccinated to show a negative test to access crowded places, including discos and stadiums, daily Corriere della Sera reported. Negative tests could also be required to enter cinemas and theatres, along with wearing masks outdoors.
Under current rules, people who have been vaccinated or have recently recovered from the disease have free access to indoor seating at bars and restaurants, museums, cinemas, clubs and sporting events. “Some measures, such as making masks compulsory even outdoors … could be taken soon,” Franco Locatelli, one of the government's main scientific advisors, told the newspaper. (Reuters)
FRENCH EDUCATION MINISTER SAYS THERE ARE NO PLANS TO EXTEND SCHOOLS' XMAS HOLIDAYS BECAUSE OF OMICRON VARIANT (Reuters)
Iran has detected its first case of infection by the new omicron variant of the coronavirus, state TV reported Sunday. The announcement comes as the variant spreads around the globe less than a month after scientists alerted the World Health Organization to the concerning-looking version. Iran has vaccinated some 60% of its population of roughly 85 million people with two doses of coronavirus vaccines. The coronavirus has killed more than 131,000 people in Iran, the worst fatality rate in the Middle East. On Aug. 24 alone, 709 people died of the illness. The number of deaths has decreased in recent months due to the vaccination, experts say. Iran accelerated vaccinations in recent weeks. More than 50 million Iranians have received their second shots, and 3.5 million have received the third shots. Only 7 million Iranians had received vaccinations when President Ebrahin Raisi formed his administration in late August. Iran generally uses the China-made Sinopharm vaccine, though the Russian Sputnik-V and the vaccine made by the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca are also in use. Iranian officials urged people who got two doses of vaccine to get their third dose as soon as possible. (AP)
The union territory of Puducherry reported six new coronavirus cases during the last 24 hours taking the overall tally to 1,29,315, a Department of Health official said on Sunday. The Puducherry region registered four of the six new cases while Mahe recorded the remaining two, Director of Health G Sriramulu said in a release here. The Karaikal and Yanam regions did not add any fresh cases. The number of active cases stood at 151 with 28 patients in hospitals and the remaining 123 were in home isolation, he said. As many as 25 patients recovered and were discharged during the last 24 hours ending 10 AM on Sunday while the overall recoveries stood at 1,27,284. One more person hailing from Puducherry succumbed to the infection pushing the death toll to 1,880. The test positivity rate was 0.36 per cent while the fatality and recovery rates were 1.45 per cent and 98.43 per cent respectively. The Health Department has so far tested 20,25,392 samples and has found 17,16,894 out of them to be negative.
The Department has so far administered 13,43,579 doses so far and they comprised 8,14,101 first doses and 5,29,478 were second doses. (PTI)
Britain's health minister Sajid Javid declined on Sunday to rule out the chance of further COVID-19 restrictions before Christmas, saying the spread of the Omicron variant was a very fast moving situation. Britain reported a surge in cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant on Saturday, which government advisors said could be just the tip of the iceberg. London's mayor declared a “major incident” to help the city's hospitals cope. Asked whether he could rule out restrictions before Christmas, Javid told BBC Television: “We are assessing the situation, it is very fast moving.” “There are no guarantees in this pandemic I don't think. At this point, we just have to keep everything under review.” Javid said the government was taking the “sobering” advice of its scientists seriously, was watching the data on an “almost hourly basis” and would balance that against the broader impact of restrictions on things such as businesses and education. (Reuters)
Shopping streets in the Netherlands were closed and people's Christmas plans were in disarray as the country began a lockdown on Sunday aimed at limiting an expected COVID-19 surge caused by the rise of the Omicron variant. Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced the sudden shut-down on Saturday evening, ordering the closure of all but the most essential stores, as well as restaurants, hairdressers, gyms, museums and other public places from Sunday until at least Jan. 14. The news came as a shock to many Dutch people as they headed into the Christmas and New Year period. Many people rushed out on Saturday to stock up on presents and food and to get a last-minute haircut. Hospitality workers demanded compensation for lost income in the holiday season, while gym owners stressed the importance of exercise during a health crisis.
“Closing all bars and restaurants in such an important month is incredibly painful and dramatic. We need compensation and an exit strategy”, the Dutch association for hospitality services said. All schools will close a week early for the Christmas break on Monday and will remain shut until at least Jan. 9, while households are recommended to receive no more than two visitors and gatherings outside are also limited to a maximum of two. Coronavirus infections in the Netherlands have dropped from record levels in recent weeks after a night-time lockdown was put in place late last month. But cases involving the Omicron variant have increased rapidly since the beginning of December and the strain is expected to become dominant before the end of the year. This will pose a big problem for hospitals, which have been cancelling regular care for weeks as they try to avoid running out of beds due to the high numbers of COVID-19 patients on their wards. The government said on Saturday said it would accelerate the administration of booster vaccine shots after a slow start of the campaign, and now aims to deliver extra shots to everyone over the age of 60 before the end of the month. While more than 85% of the Dutch adult population is vaccinated, fewer than 9% of adults have so far had a booster shot, one of the lowest rates in Europe. (Reuters)
India's Omicron COVID count rose to 145 on Sunday after a 45-year-old NRI and a teenage boy, who recently arrived in Gujarat from the United Kingdom, tested positive for the variant. According to central and state officials, omicron cases have been detected in 11 states and union territories — Maharashtra (48), Delhi (22), Rajasthan (17) and Karnataka (14), Telangana (20), Gujarat (9), Kerala (11), Andhra Pradesh (1), Chandigarh (1), Tamil Nadu (1) and West Bengal (1). On Saturday, Maharashtra had reported eight more cases, Telangana's tally jumped from eight to 20, while Karnataka and Kerala reported six and four cases respectively. In Gujarat, the non-resident Indian tested positive for the coronavirus infection in the RT-PCR test carried out at the Ahmedabad international airport soon after he arrived from the UK on December 15, a health department official said on Sunday.
“The man's sample was later found infected with the Omicron variant,” Anand district health officer Dr M T Chhari said. He was scheduled to reach the state's Anand city from Ahmedabad. “But, after he tested positive for the coronavirus, he was taken to the Ahmedabad civil hospital from the airport. The patient is currently recovering at the Ahmedabad civil hospital,” Dr Chhari said. His co-passengers and other contacts have tested negative for the viral infection, the official said. A 15-year-old boy from Gandhinagar was also detected with the Omicron variant after returning from the UK, Gandhinagar Municipal Commissioner Dhaval Patel said. Maharashtra on Saturday reported eight new infections of the Omicron variant of coronavirus which took the total of such cases in the state to 48, the health department said. Twenty-eight of these patients have already recovered or have been discharged after testing negative for COVID-19 in subsequent tests, it said. Of the six cases reported in Karnataka on Saturday, one was a passenger from the UK, while five others were from COVID-19 clusters in two educational institutions in Dakshina Kannada district, officials had said. In Kerala, the two cases of the new variant of the coronavirus were detected from Thiruvananthapuram in patients aged 17 and 44. One case was detected in Malappuram in a person aged 37 and another was a 49-year-old patient from Thrissur district. While Omicron was first reported in South Africa on November 24, India's first two cases of the this heavily mutated version of the coronavirus were detected in Karnataka on December 2. (PTI)
New COVID-19 restrictions are inevitable as without them Britain will see public services such as the National Health Service (NHS) on the verge of collapse, London Mayor Sadiq Khan told BBC Television on Sunday. Khan declared a “major incident” on Saturday to help the capital's hospitals cope with a surge in COVID-19 cases caused by the fast-spreading Omicron coronavirus variant. “I think it's inevitable,” Khan told the BBC when asked about the likelihood of further restrictions. “If we don't bring in new restrictions sooner rather than later you're going to see even more positive cases and potentially public services like the NHS on the verge of collapse, if not collapsing.” (Reuters)
Germany is tightening travel restrictions for people coming from Britain in response to the rapid spread of the omicron variant there. The country's national disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, added Britain to its list of “virus variant areas'' late Saturday. This means anyone traveling from the U.K. to Germany must enter a mandatory quarantine for 14 days, regardless of vaccination status. The new restrictions, which will go into effect at midnight Sunday, come as the U.K. reports a record high number of new coronavirus infections. On Saturday, the country saw 90,418 new cases. The U.K. joins eight African countries, including South Africa, on Germany's list of “virus variant areas.'' The Robert Koch Institute's announcement comes in the wake of tightened restrictions for other countries across Europe as the continent faces a fourth wave of infections. Starting Sunday, France and Denmark are considered “high risk areas,'' meaning those who are not vaccinated or recovered from the virus must quarantine for 10 days. Dozens of countries, including nearly all of Germany's direct neighbors, have now been added to this category. (AP)
China administered about 12 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines on Dec 18, bringing the total to 2.67 billion, data from the National Health Commission showed on Sunday.(Reuters)

The British government is monitoring the latest COVID-19 data on an almost hourly basis and will do whatever is necessary to tackle the spread, health minister Sajid Javid told Sky News on Sunday. Javid said analysis of the data suggested around 60% of all new COVID-19 cases in England are the fast-spreading Omicron variant, but the country was in a better position than last Christmas thanks to things such as vaccinations and testing. Asked about reports of possible further measures, Javid said: “We will do what is necessary but it has got to be backed up by the data … we are watching the data, discussing it with our scientists and our best advisers almost on an hourly basis and we will monitor that very carefully we will keep the situation under review.” (Reuters)
While restaurants in the US and United Kingdom are open without restrictions and often bustling, they are entering their second winter of the coronavirus pandemic anxious about what's ahead: They're squeezed by labour shortages and skyrocketing food costs and the omicron variant is looming. “I'm extremely worried. I've never felt like we were out of the woods,” said Caroline Glover, chef and owner of the restaurant Annette in the Denver suburb of Aurora. The rapid spread of omicron already is pummeling the industry in Britain and elsewhere, with restaurants, hotels and pubs reporting cancellations at the busiest and most lucrative time of year. Businesses urged the U.K. government to offer relief after officials warned people to think carefully about socialising. Scotland and Wales have pledged millions of pounds for businesses, adding pressure for Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government to do the same in England. “It's pretty devastating. For private hires, bigger tables of say eight to 16 people, those have pretty much disappeared. These are the bread and butter for restaurants at Christmastime,” said Jeff Galvin, co-owner of Galvin Restaurants, a group of five upmarket venues in London. Many businesses said hundreds of festive corporate lunch bookings vanished almost overnight as infections began to soar and Johnson announced tighter restrictions, including mandatory mask-wearing in most indoor spaces, though restaurants are open as usual. Glover in Colorado worries about renewed restrictions if infections climb. For now, business has returned, with her dining room back to full capacity — up from a cap of 50% last year — and four greenhouses outside booked far in advance. (AP)
Workers at Santa Claus Village, a holiday theme park on the edge of the Arctic Circle, chipped away at a frozen dome, using chisels to put the final touches on an ice restaurant-hotel filled with sculptures of snowmen, penguins and huskies. The Christmas season is in full swing in Finnish Lapland, where venue operators happily report that visitors have returned in numbers approaching pre-pandemic levels. Tourists from elsewhere in Finland and abroad come to revel in the festive spirit at the sprawling theme park, take a reindeer or husky sleigh ride and if they're lucky, glimpse the Northern Lights. How long the winter fun will last is uncertain as the omicron coronavirus variant leads to new travel restrictions, test requirements and quarantine measures. “It is a worry, of course, because no one knows what's going to happen,” Sanna Karkkainen, CEO of Visit Rovaniemi, the tourism board for the capital of Finnish Lapland. “There's always the worry that are we going to get cancellations.” The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns and travel restrictions hit the northern Finnish region's travel industry hard. Before the pandemic, about 60 per cent of Rovaniemi's more than half-million annual visitors came from abroad, mostly from elsewhere in Europe and some Asian countries. Starting Tuesday, however, Finland is reintroducing increased health screening on all travellers from outside the European Union or Europe's 26-nation Schengen Area, requiring all arriving passengers to show proof of a negative test taken within the previous 48 hours. For Karkkainen and her tourist board colleagues, keeping up with new rules and what they might mean for business is a daily “puzzle,” and one with no end is in sight. “You look at the latest updates” each day and wonder, What's happening with the travellers?'” she said. “It's been a really rough one and a half years, and the most surprising factor is that we don't know when it's really going to end.” (AP)
UK HEALTH MINISTER JAVID SAYS BELIEVE OMICRON ACCOUNTS FOR AROUND 60% OF ALL NEW COVID CASES IN ENGLAND

RUSSIA REPORTS 27,967 NEW CORONAVIRUS CASES IN PAST 24 HOURS (Reuters)
RUSSIA REPORTS 27,967 NEW CORONAVIRUS CASES IN PAST 24 HOURS
Two members of the media, covering the second Ashes Test, have tested positive for COVID-19, creating panic among the visiting British journalists on the fourth day of the game, here Sunday. According to abc.net.au, “Two members of the media covering the second Ashes Test at Adelaide Oval have tested positive for COVID-19. The Stadium Management Authority said a crew member returned a result as a part of scheduled testing for the virus.” Later on Sunday afternoon, there was a confirmed second positive COVID-19 case which has been identified in the media pack. “We have been made aware of a second member of the visiting media who has returned a positive COVID result as part of the scheduled day six testing. This individual was working in the media centre in the western stand. He has not attended the ground today and neither have his close contacts,” Stadium management authority stated. The South Australia Health said it would not comment on any individual cases and authorities have not confirmed which media crew the broadcaster was a part of. The 'ABC Grandstand' team was told they could not broadcast from the ground until they receive clearance from SA Health and oval management, but will continue to broadcast today's play remotely. ABC Grandstand's Andrew Moore said he was in his hotel room and hopeful he could get back to the ground to continue the broadcast today. “I had a test this morning as part of the travel arrangements and when we got back we got told to stay where we are … not to go to Adelaide Oval until we get clearance from SA Health and Adelaide Oval,” he said. “The radio and TV boxes all run in line alongside each other and then there's the written press down one of the far ends of it. You do communicate with people when you walk out of the broadcast box, people are wearing masks inside the ground. They're wearing masks in that area. “There is definitely interaction with other members of the press and that's why, I think, this may take a little while to sort out who's been in contact with who.” According to the website, Moore said he understands it was a member of the British media who tested positive. Earlier, Australia captain Pat Cummins was ruled out of the Test after being deemed a close contact of a COVID-positive diner at an Adelaide restaurant. South Australia recorded 80 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday — the highest number it has recorded since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. (PTI)
A 45-year-old NRI and a teenage boy, who recently arrived in Gujarat from the United Kingdom, have been found infected with the Omicron variant of COVID-19, officials said on Sunday. With this, the total number of such cases in the state has gone up to nine. The NRI (non-resident Indian) tested positive for the coronavirus infection in the RT-PCR test carried out at the Ahmedabad international airport soon after his arrival from the UK on December 15, a health department official said. “The man's sample was later found infected with the Omicron variant,” Anand district health officer Dr M T Chhari said. He was scheduled to reach the state's Anand city from Ahmedabad. “But, after he tested positive for the coronavirus, he was taken to the Ahmedabad civil hospital from the airport. The patient is currently recovering at the Ahmedabad civil hospital,” Dr Chhari said. His co-passengers and other contacts have tested negative for the viral infection, the official said. On Saturday, a 15-year-old boy from Gandhinagar was also detected with the Omicron variant after returning from the UK, Gandhinagar Municipal Commissioner Dhaval Patel said. (PTI)
Brian May, lead guitarist for the legendary rock band Queen, has tested positive for COVID-19. The 74-year-old musician, who co-founded the legendary rock band with the late singer Freddie Mercury and drummer Roger Taylor, shared the news on Instagram Saturday. “Yep. The shocking day finally came for me. The dreaded double red line,” May wrote alongside two photos of his test showing the result. While the last few days for him were “truly horrible”, the guitarist said he was doing fine now. “PLEASE take extra care out there, good folks. This thing is incredibly transmissible. You really do NOT want it messing up YOUR Christmas,” he added. In a series of new posts on Sunday, May, who has been vaccinated with “three Pfizer jabs” said the COVID-19 positive “red line” seems less strong today.
“So do NOT be afraid – there IS life after Covid! But DO be careful… you do not want this, and neither do your family,” he wrote alongside the video of him playing the guitar. May also thanked fans and followers for best wishes, promising he will tell the story of how he contracted the virus. (PTI)
Ladakh's tally of COVID-19 cases increased to 21,930 on Sunday with 27 fresh infections, officials said. While 15 new cases were detected in Leh, the rest 12 cases surfaced in Kargil district, they said. The officials said the Covid-related death toll remained at 217 and of these, 159 deaths have been reported from Leh and 58 from Kargil. The number of active cases in the Union Territory has gone up to 181 — 160 in Leh and 21 in Kargil — from 173 the previous day, according to the officials. The officials said that 14 patients were discharged from hospitals in Leh and five in Kargil, taking the total number of recoveries in Ladakh to 21,532. (PTI)
Australian officials on Sunday said there was no need to clamp down on Christmas festivities even as new COVID-19 infections climbed in Sydney, with the country's high vaccination rate helping keep people out of hospital. Health Minister Greg Hunt said he was confident Australia would not need to follow the Netherlands, which has reimposed a strict lockdown over the Christmas and New Year period to curb the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant. “We're going into summer, we have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world and a very different set of circumstances. So we don't see that's a likely situation in Australia,” Hunt told reporters in a televised media conference. The Netherlands, he said, has suffered vastly higher infections and deaths than Australia over the pandemic and is now in the depths of winter when cases were more likely to climb sharply. “We're well prepared and people are overwhelmingly … continuing to do an amazing job,” Hunt said, referring to the more than 90% of Australians over 16 who have been fully vaccinated. Australia's most populous state, New South Wales, on Sunday reported a record 2,566 new cases, up from 2,482 on Saturday. Cases in intensive care remained low at 28, which state premier Dominic Perrottet said was “incredibly positive”. The state has reported more than 11,000 new cases in the past week, quadruple the number in the previous week, sparking calls from the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and an online campaign urging the state to reinstate track and trace codes, mandatory masks and capacity limits. (Reuters)
Gulf carrier Emirates, which currently serves nine destinations under the air bubble pact with India, is looking forward to operate at its full capacity in the country once the conditions permit and is in close contact with Indian authorities for the same. The coronavirus pandemic has crippled the aviation sector, which is slowly on the recovery mode amid easing of restrictions, including travel curbs. Against this backdrop, Emirates Vice President, India & Nepal, Mohammad Sarhan said the airline has ramped up flight frequencies globally and expects to return to profitability over the next 18 months. “In line with the easing of travel restrictions worldwide, we've ramped up flight frequencies across our network and deployed our iconic A380 aircraft on 25 destinations. “We're well on the path to recovery. We've restored 90 per cent of our pre-pandemic network, and we expect to return to profitability over the next 18 months,” he told PTI. “Given the latest developments, we are in close contact with the local authorities, and we look forward to operating at full capacity once conditions allow us to do so,” Sarhan said. Scheduled international commercial flights to and from India remain suspended since March 2020 in the wake of the pandemic and the suspension has been extended till January 31, 2022. Currently, overseas flights are operated under bilateral air bubble agreements with various countries. India has air bubble agreements with 34 countries, as per the civil aviation ministry website. (PTI)
No fresh COVID-19 case was registered in Arunachal Pradesh for the second consecutive day on Sunday, while four more patients were cured of the disease, a senior health official said. Arunachal Pradesh's COVID-19 tally remained unchanged at 55,320, while the number of active cases dipped to 26, and the total number of recoveries stood at 55,014. The death toll also remained unchanged at 280, State Surveillance Officer Dr Lobsang Jampa said. The recovery rate among the coronavirus patients in the state marginally improved to 99.45 per cent from 99.44 on the previous day, he said. The Capital Complex region, comprising Itanagar, Naharlagun, Nirjuli and Banderdewa areas, has the highest number of active cases at 17, followed by three in Namsai and two in East Siang. The administration has tested over 12.02 lakh samples for COVID-19, including 161 on Saturday, he said, adding that the positivity rate stood at 0.40 per cent. State Immunisation Officer Dr Dimong Padung said that 14.47 lakh people have been inoculated so far, including 1,101 on Saturday. (PTI)
Trans people in India without caste and class privileges have been rendered vulnerable during the pandemic. Harsh and stringent public health regulations put in place by the Indian government during the first phase of the pandemic resulted in loss of livelihood for trans people. It led to food and housing insecurity for daily wage earning trans people, sex workers and those engaged in begging and performing. In the wake of job loss, lockdowns and in the absence of equitable government-funded medical supports designed to meet trans people's healthcare needs, many could not access hormone replacement therapy. On a panel, trans rights activist Ranchana Mudraboyina said: “Those who were transitioning did not get hormone therapy due to the lockdown. The few who were on monthly testosterone hormone therapy started having their menstruation again due to the lack of regular injections. Also, there have been suicide cases in our community due to the worsening of mental health during the pandemic.” Trans people have lost access to public spaces and places which has made it difficult for them to earn their living. Even as promises were made to render social security schemes available to trans people, the cisnormative bureaucratic structure presented barriers. Advocacy started early for financial aid. Sustained negotiations took place between trans people and government authorities. But many were denied aid without explanation. Trans people who lack government-issued identity documents and bank accounts under their chosen names and self-determined gender, who are not conversant in English or Hindi and who are not digitally literate — but were nonetheless required to fill out online forms — were precluded from receiving the limited government supports. In the absence of guaranteed financial aid, many trans women had to borrow money from private moneylenders at high interest rates, rendering themselves susceptible to debt-related violence. Suicide rates rose among trans people. This has become a necropolitical feature of the pandemic. Even as food and socio-economic insecurities started claiming lives, trans communities and community-based organisations have effectively organised to keep each other alive. As they continue their fight to secure access to social safety nets as matters of equity, rights and justice, we need to pay attention. (PTI)
Andaman and Nicobar Islands have achieved 100 per cent double dose COVID vaccination of its target beneficiaries. The administration said it was the first among the states and Union territories to achieve the feat using only Covishield. “A&N achieved 100% Covid vaccine coverage making it 1st State/UT to achieve the feat using only Covishield. UT Admin overcame Insurmountable odds for this extraordinary feat in one of the remotest parts of world,” it said in a tweet. “Vaccination in A&N was extremely challenging as the UT is spread over 836 islands Spread over 800 km from North to South separated by Rough Sea, Extremely Dense jungle, hills & exposed to Inclement weather,” the administration said in another Twitter post. The vaccination drive in the islands kickstarted with the rest of the country on January 16 this year. As per a health bulletin, 2.87 lakh people have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine against the target of 2.86 lakh beneficiaries, leading to 100.41 per cent vaccination. A total of 74.67 per cent of the islands' total population has been inoculated, it said. Meanwhile, the islands' coronavirus caseload rose to 7,701 on Sunday as one more person tested positive for the infection, the health bulletin said. The new case was detected during contact tracing, it said. The Union territory now has two active cases, while 7,570 people have recovered from the disease so far, including one in the last 24 hours, and 129 patients have succumbed to the infection to date, the bulletin added. (PTI)
Andaman and Nicobar Islands have achieved 100 per cent double dose COVID vaccination of its target beneficiaries. The administration said it was the first among the states and Union territories to achieve the feat using only Covishield. “A&N achieved 100% Covid vaccine coverage making it 1st State/UT to achieve the feat using only Covishield. UT Admin overcame Insurmountable odds for this extraordinary feat in one of the remotest parts of world,” it said in a tweet. “Vaccination in A&N was extremely challenging as the UT is spread over 836 islands Spread over 800 km from North to South separated by Rough Sea, Extremely Dense jungle, hills & exposed to Inclement weather,” the administration said in another Twitter post. The vaccination drive in the islands kickstarted with the rest of the country on January 16 this year. As per a health bulletin, 2.87 lakh people have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine against the target of 2.86 lakh beneficiaries, leading to 100.41 per cent vaccination. A total of 74.67 per cent of the islands' total population has been inoculated, it said. Meanwhile, the islands' coronavirus caseload rose to 7,701 on Sunday as one more person tested positive for the infection, the health bulletin said. The new case was detected during contact tracing, it said. The Union territory now has two active cases, while 7,570 people have recovered from the disease so far, including one in the last 24 hours, and 129 patients have succumbed to the infection to date, the bulletin added. (PTI)
Hospitals across the country are struggling to cope with burnout among doctors, nurses and other workers, already buffeted by a crush of patients from the ongoing surge of the COVID-19 delta variant and now bracing for the fallout of another highly transmissible mutation. Ohio became the latest state to summon the National Guard to help overwhelmed medical facilities. Experts in Nebraska warned that its hospitals soon may need to ration care. Medical officials in Kansas and Missouri are delaying surgeries, turning away transfers and desperately trying to hire traveling nurses, as cases double and triple in an eerie reminder of last year's holiday season. “There is no medical school class that can prepare you for this level of death,” said Dr. Jacqueline Pflaum-Carlson, an emergency medicine specialist at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit. “The hits just keep coming.” The national seven-day average of COVID-19 hospital admissions was 60,000 by Wednesday, far off last winter's peak but 50 per cent higher than in early November, the government reported. The situation is more acute in cold-weather regions, where people are increasingly gathering inside and new infections are piling up. New York state reported Saturday that slightly more than 21,900 people had tested positive for COVID-19 the day before, a new high since tests became widely available. Consequences of the latest surge have been swift in New York City: The Rockettes Christmas show was scratched for the season; some Broadway shows canceled performances because of outbreaks among cast members; and “Saturday Night Live” announced it was taping without a live audience and with only limited cast and crew.

Nebraska officials said hospitals might have to put some care on hold to make room for COVID-19 patients. While case numbers are down from the state's pandemic peak, they could rebound rapidly, and bed availability remains tight because of patients with non-virus ailments. “It may be likely that omicron will cause a giant surge, and honestly we can't handle that right now,” said Dr. Angela Hewlett of Nebraska Medicine in Omaha. At Los Angeles' Providence Holy Cross Medical Center, just 17 coronavirus patients were being treated there Friday, a small fraction of the hospital's worst stretch. Nurse manager Edgar Ramirez said his co-workers are weary but better prepared if a wave hits. (AP)
Thane has added 104 new cases of coronavirus, raising the infection tally in the Maharashtra district to 5,71,122, an official said on Sunday. These new cases were reported on Saturday, he said. The virus also claimed the life of one more person, which pushed the death toll in the district to 11,600, he said, adding that the COVID-19 mortality rate in Thane is 2.03 per cent. In neighbouring Palghar district, the COVID-19 case count has gone up to 1,38,923, while the death toll has reached 3,307, another official said. (PTI)

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