US officials stepped up calls on Friday for unvaccinated Americans to get vaccinated in the face of a new omicron variant that has contributed to a record number of infections in New York and threatens to threaten wiped out the second holiday season in Europe.
Although the schedule is about to change, Friday has a clear feel to 2020: NFL games have been postponed because of the COVID-19 infection. The Rockettes Christmas show has been canceled for the season. European governments have imposed a series of restrictions that have brought travel on the ground to a halt and left travelers in the dark.
Much is still unknown about the omicron, but officials warn that it appears to be more transmissible than the delta variant, which has put pressure on hospitals around the world. The uncertainty alone is enough for many people to change their plans.
In the United States, the administration of President Joe Biden opposes tightening any restrictions, but also outlines dire scenarios for the unvaccinated with a call for hesitant Americans not to get vaccinated. room.
“For the unvaccinated, you are looking at a winter of serious illness and death, for yourself, your family and the hospitals that you can soon be overwhelmed,” coordinator White House coronavirus response Jeff Zient said Friday, echoing the president’s own comments earlier. week.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said the new variant was “in full force” in New York City, with a record single-day new cases of more than 8,300 on Thursday. But the number of new hospitalizations and deaths – so far – are both well below their peak in spring 2020 and even this time last year, city data shows.
The coronavirus is also disrupting sports activities in the US again. The NFL announced Friday that three games will be pushed from the weekend to next week because of the outbreak. The federation did not specify whether the cases were from the omicron variant.
Radio City Rockettes canceled four performances scheduled for Friday because of outbreaks of COVID-19 during production and plans for upcoming performances are still being evaluated. The popular holiday show usually has four shows a day in December at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan.
Dr. Stanley Weiss, a professor of epidemiology at Rutgers University, said officials need to react more quickly, citing a willingness to redefine complete immunization to include booster shots, for example.
“Everybody wants us to get through this pandemic, but to get through it, we can’t ignore the reality of what’s going on and what’s needed,” Weiss said.
Denmark decided to close theaters, concert halls, amusement parks and museums in response to virus cases. In Spain, friends and classmates have canceled the traditional year-end dinner.
Scotland and Wales on Friday pledged millions of pounds in support for businesses hit by the latest spike in infections in Britain, a move that puts pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government to do just that. similar in the UK.
Treasurer Rishi Sunak held conversations with business representatives, who asked for more assistance, criticizing the “sneaky lockdown”, in which government officials encouraged recommends that people cut back on socializing as much as possible without formally imposing strict rules on closures in the past.
Britain reported a record number of infections for three consecutive days this week, as late as Friday with more than 93,000 cases.
Businesses ranging from resort providers to pubs and theaters have seen waves of booking cancellations because customers decide to skip the fun now rather than risk being ripped off. infect and miss out on family celebrations later on.
Even Britain’s Christmas halls – beloved and noisy holiday performances – are under threat. The Belgrade Theater in Coventry, western England, had to refund £180,000 ($240,000) of ticket sales after customers decided not to come to the shows. They were also forced to cancel 12 performances of “Beauty and the Beast” because half of the cast tested positive.
Chief executive Joanna Reid told the BBC: “There’s been some real confidence.
Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said on Friday that financial support for business must come from the central government as the government has the ability to borrow to finance the scale of aid needed.
Sturgeon said during a briefing in Edinburgh, the Scottish capital. “There’s no time to waste.”
The already underrated travel and tourism industry is being hit particularly hard.
Eurostar, which operates trains across the English Channel, sold out tickets to France on Friday before new rules restricting travel to and from Britain came into force. Long lines surround the parking lot at Eurotunnel, which runs a tunnel that drivers use to cross the water.
Ryanair was originally expected to carry around 11 million passengers by December, but that number has since been reduced to 10 million, chief executive Michael O’Leary told the Guardian. Europe’s largest airline will also cut about 10% of capacity in January.
Amanda Wheelock, 29, a graduate student at the University of Michigan, canceled a trip to France with her partner when cases spiked there. While the increase isn’t necessarily due to omicrons, the uncertainty about the new variant, and a new requirement that all US travelers test negative before flying back to the US, have her worried. that the trip will be more stressful than fun. .
Instead, she travels to the Anchorage, Alaska, area to meet friends.
A new CDC study shows that vaccines provide more protection against COVID-19 than antibodies from a previous infection. Researchers found that adults who recently recovered from COVID-19 but remained unvaccinated were five times more likely to contract the coronavirus than vaccinated adults who had never been vaccinated. COVID-19.
Wheelock, from Arvada, Colorado, says: “A vacation with a lot of stress probably isn’t a great one.
Advantage travel group, which represents around 350 UK travel agents, said business was down 40% in mid-December from a month earlier. Those numbers, which include flights, yacht bookings and package holidays, add to the current slump in the travel industry, which has seen business fall by two-thirds. since the pandemic began, CEO Julia Lo Bue-Said.
“Our members are dealing with customers who are really nervous about traveling right now,” she says. “They are really nervous about booking for the New Year because they fear that there is a major risk The government will have a more unpleasant reaction.”
Many in the travel and hospitality industries hope that they have put the worst behind them, nearly two years into a pandemic that has ravaged those industries. They see this holiday season as an opportunity to regain some of what was lost – until omicron recalls the early days of the crisis.
Richard Stevens estimates he lost up to £4,000 ($5,300) on bookings at a ski rental chalet in the French Alps following new, stricter travel rules for those from He was announced.
Stevens said he lost his first reservation when a guest called to say the restrictions would not allow anyone to come to France without a compelling reason. “And compelling reasons don’t include going on vacation.”
Celebrity chef Michel Roux and other restaurateurs have invested heavily in reworking their locations to address safety concerns – and are hoping to reap some benefits.
Roux, who has a destination restaurant in London, says: “
Jorge Riera, the manager of a traditional Spanish eatery in central Madrid, said it was no problem that the authorities did not impose specific restrictions and most only made recommendations.
“Most of our clients prioritize the health of their loved ones over a fun night out with colleagues,” says Riera.
In the past week alone, cancellations have accounted for about half of bookings, sometimes on the same day of the event, the manager said.
“People are scared again about this virus,” he said.
Associated Press writers Kelvin Chan and Danica Kirka in London; Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of Washington, Mae Anderson of New York, Aritz Parra of Madrid, Barry Hatton of Lisbon and Sylvia Hui of London contributed to this report.
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.
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