U.S. airport chaos as more than 2,600 canceled flights

Air travel continued to be severely disrupted in the United States today, with bad weather in parts of the country adding to the impact of a massive spike in variant-fueled Covid-19 infections Omicron.

The United States had 2,604 canceled flights, more than half of the 4,529 canceled worldwide, shortly after 4:30 p.m., according to the tracking site FlightAware.

In addition, 3,447 domestic flights were delayed today, out of a total of 7,602 worldwide for the day.

The worst-hit U.S. airline was Southwest, which had to cancel 13% of its flight schedule, according to the site.

In the United States, Chicago airports were particularly hard hit due to difficult weather, with a snowstorm expected in the area this afternoon and overnight.

The global airline industry is still reeling from the highly contagious Omicron variant.

Many pilots, flight attendants and other staff are absent from work after contracting Covid-19, or because they are in quarantine after coming into contact with an infected person.

Some 7,500 flights were canceled by airlines around the world over the Christmas weekend.

China ends 2021 with biggest Covid tally since pandemic began

Xi’an under strict lockdown after local cases emerged

China ended its last week of 2021 with its highest number of local coronavirus cases for a seven-day period since the country’s first outbreak was brought under control almost two years ago, despite some of the most recent Covid-19 measures. more stringent in the world.

The National Health Commission today reported 175 new community infections with confirmed clinical symptoms, bringing the total number of local symptomatic cases in mainland China to 1,151 in the past week.

The surge was mainly due to an epidemic in the industrial and technological center of northwest Xi’an, a city of 13 million people.

The worsening epidemic in Xi’an is likely to result in the authorities’ strong commitment to curbing transmissions quickly as cases emerge.

The city, closed for ten days as of today, has reported 1,451 local symptomatic cases since December 9, the highest tally of any Chinese city in 2021.

Although the number of cases in China is small compared to many epidemics elsewhere in the world, it will be important to prevent major outbreaks in 2022.

Beijing will host the Winter Olympics in February and the ruling Communist Party will hold a convention every five years, scheduled for the fall, where President Xi Jinping is likely to get a third term as party secretary.

The emergence of the highly transmissible variant Omicron will also prompt Beijing to remain very vigilant in the face of the virus.

China has reported a handful of imported Omicron cases and at least one locally transmitted case.

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Since August, China has attempted to bring any outbreak under control within about two weeks, much shorter than the four to six weeks of previous battles against the sporadic outbreaks following the initial nationwide outbreak. according to the National Health Commission.

Cities along China’s borders are at greater risk of the virus, either due to the presence of land transport links or the entry of infected travelers from other countries. Some have been hit by outbreaks in Delta which resulted in severe travel restrictions last year.

Yunnan, which shares a border with Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam, reported new local symptomatic cases 92 days out of 365 last year, 25% of the time, more often than any other province, autonomous region or municipality. .

The Xi’an outbreak, which has led to cases in other cities including Beijing, could be attributed to a flight from Pakistan, but it is not known how it spread to local communities.

Many people have been banned from leaving their residential complexes, but a city government official said yesterday that curbs will be loosened at less risky complexes when the time comes.

China’s strict epidemic policies have helped prevent its sprawling industrial sector from sliding into prolonged shutdowns, reaping large export gains as other pillars of growth weaken.

But unpredictable disruptions have shaken consumer confidence and hammered the restaurant, hotel and tourism sectors.

New Covid restrictions would be a last resort, says UK Minister of Health

New restrictions in England to slow the spread of Covid-19 will only be introduced as a last resort, Health Minister Sajid Javid said, stressing that although hospitalizations were increasing, the number of intensive care patients was stable.

The rapid spread of the Omicron variant across the UK sent infections to record highs, with nearly 190,000 new cases reported yesterday.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all imposed restrictions such as limits on the number of people allowed to gather, club closures and social distancing measures in pubs.

“Restrictions on our freedom must be an absolute last resort,” Mr Javid wrote in an article in the Daily Mail.

“We have to give ourselves the best chance to live alongside the virus and avoid strict measures in the future.”

New Years celebrations in London

Mr Javid had said on December 27 that no new restrictions would be imposed in England until the end of 2021.

His article suggested none were imminent in 2022 either.

He said that while the Omicron surge meant it was a worrying time, Britain was starting the new year in a much stronger position than it was 12 months earlier, thanks to the rate of high vaccination.

“The number of intensive care units is stable and is not currently following the trajectory that we saw around the same time last year during the Alpha wave,” he wrote.

He acknowledged that due to the lag between infections and hospitalizations, a surge in the number of people needing NHS care was inevitable.

“This is likely to test the limits of the finite capacity of the NHS even more than a typical winter,” he said, urging people to do everything possible to protect themselves.

The number of daily Covid-19 cases in India increases by 22,775

India has reported 22,775 new Covid-19 infections in the past 24 hours, according to data from the Ministry of Health, adding to the concerns of the country’s authorities over the increase in the number of cases.

Data shows that densely populated cities, such as the national capital New Delhi, financial hub Mumbai and Kolkata in the east, are seeing some of the largest increases.

In the eastern state of West Bengal, infections rose to 3,450 in the past 24 hours with at least 1,950 cases reported in the capital Kolkata. Sixteen cases of Omicron have been reported in West Bengal.

The Municipality of Kolkata has declared 17 micro-zones of containment in residential clusters where more than five infections have been reported. People living in the areas are not allowed to leave the area in an attempt to contain the spread of the disease.

The state’s director of health services said he was holding meetings with private hospitals to ensure health facilities are prepared to deal with the growing number of cases.

India experienced a devastating second wave of Covid-19 last year when the daily average number of new cases peaked at around 400,000.

The number of cases had dropped considerably since then. For many months, the national count remained well below 10,000 cases per day.

Now authorities and medical experts fear the Omicron variant is fueling a third wave of the disease.

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