US officials on Friday stepped up calls on unvaccinated Americans to get vaccinated against the new omicron variant that has contributed to record infections in New York City and threatened to wipe out a second holiday season in Europe .
Although the schedule is about to change, Friday had a distinct feel to 2020: NFL games have been postponed due to COVID-19 infections. The Rockettes Christmas show has been canceled for the season. European governments have imposed a series of restrictions that have halted ground travel and seen travelers hold themselves low.
Much remains unknown about the omicron, but officials warn that it appears to be more transmissible than the delta variant, which has already put pressure on hospitals around the world. The uncertainty alone was enough for many to change their plans.
In the United States, President Joe Biden’s administration has resisted tightening restrictions, but also sketched dire scenarios for the unvaccinated in a plea for hesitant Americans to get vaccinated.
“For the unvaccinated, you envision a winter of serious illness and death, for yourselves, your families and the hospitals that you could soon overwhelm,” White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff said on Friday. Zients, echoing the president’s own comments earlier this week.
The new variant is already in “full force” in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, with new cases hitting a one-day high of more than 8,300 on Thursday. But the new hospitalizations and deaths – so far – are well below their spring 2020 peak and even where they were around the same time last year, according to city data.
The coronavirus has also disrupted sport in the United States again. The NFL announced on Friday that three games would be postponed from the weekend to next week due to outbreaks. The league did not say whether the cases were from the omicron variant.
The Radio City Rockettes canceled four performances scheduled for Friday due to groundbreaking cases of COVID-19 in production, and plans for upcoming shows were still being assessed. The popular vacation program typically has four shows a day in December at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan.
Dr Stanley Weiss, professor of epidemiology at Rutgers University, said officials needed to respond more quickly, citing a desire to redefine fully vaccinated to include booster shots, for example.
“Everyone wants us to be done with this pandemic, but in order to get out of this we cannot ignore the realities of what is happening and what is needed,” Weiss said.
Denmark has decided to shut down theaters, concert halls, amusement parks and museums in response to cases of the virus. In Spain, friends and classmates canceled the traditional end-of-year dinners.
Scotland and Wales on Friday pledged millions of pounds for businesses hit in Britain’s latest wave of infections, a move that put pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government to he does the same in England.
Treasury Chief Rishi Sunak spoke to representatives of companies who have asked for more support, denouncing a “stealth lockdown” in which government officials recommend people reduce socialization as much as possible without formally enforcing the rules strict closures.
Britain has reported a record number of infections three days in a row this week, the last Friday with more than 93,000 cases.
Businesses ranging from vacation providers to pubs and theaters have seen a wave of cancellations as customers decided to avoid the revelry for now rather than risk getting infected and missing family celebrations later.
Even British Christmas pantos – beloved and boisterous holiday shows – are under threat. The Belgrade Theater in Coventry, western England, had to repay 180,000 pounds ($ 240,000) in ticket sales after customers decided not to attend the shows. He was also forced to cancel 12 performances of “Beauty and the Beast” because half of the cast tested positive.
“There has been a real gash in trust,” executive director Joanna Reid told the BBC.
Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Friday that financial support for businesses must come from the central government because it has the borrowing power to finance the scale of the aid needed.
“Business is already bleeding, every 24 hours counts,” Sturgeon said at a briefing in Scotland’s capital Edinburgh. “There’s no time to lose.”
The already besieged travel and tourism industry is particularly badly hit.
Eurostar, which operates trains across the Channel, sold tickets to France on Friday before new rules restricting travel to and from Britain came into effect. Long queues meandered around the parking lot for the Eurotunnel, which runs through the tunnel that drivers use to cross the water.
Ryanair originally planned to carry around 11 million passengers in December, but that number has fallen to 10 million, chief executive Michael O’Leary told The Guardian. Europe’s largest airline will also cut around 10% of its capacity in January.
Amanda Wheelock, 29, a graduate student at the University of Michigan, canceled a trip to France with her partner as cases increased there. While the push isn’t necessarily due to omicron, uncertainty over the new variant and a new requirement that all U.S. travelers must test negative before returning to the U.S. has raised concerns that the trip not be more stressful than fun. .
Instead, she travels to the Anchorage, Alaska area to see friends.
A new CDC study has found that vaccines offer more protection against COVID-19 than antibodies from a previous infection. Researchers found that adults who had recently recovered from COVID-19 but had not been vaccinated were more than 5 times more likely to catch the coronavirus than adults who had been vaccinated and had never had the virus. COVID-19.
“A vacation with a lot of stress is probably not a great vacation,” said Wheelock, originally from Arvada, Colo.
Advantage Travel Group, which represents around 350 travel agents in the UK, said its business fell 40% in mid-December compared to the previous month. These numbers, including flights, cruise bookings and package holidays, add to the current slump in the travel industry, which had already seen its activity drop by two-thirds since the start of the pandemic, a said CEO Julia Lo Bue-Said.
“Our members are dealing with clients who are really nervous about traveling now,” she said.
Many travel and hospitality professionals hoped they had left the worst behind, nearly two years after a pandemic devastated these industries. They saw this holiday season as a chance to reclaim some of what had been lost – until omicron throws a veil reminiscent of the early days of the crisis.
Richard Stevens estimates he lost 4,000 pounds ($ 5,300) in reservations at his rental ski chalet in the French Alps after the announcement of new, stricter travel rules for people coming from Britain.
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, Stevens said. “And the compelling reason does not include going on vacation.”
Celebrity chef Michel Roux and other restaurateurs have invested heavily in redesigning their places to address safety concerns – and hoped to reap some of the benefits.
Returning to a state of enormous uncertainty for a second consecutive Christmas is “like a kick in the stomach,” said Roux, who owns a destination restaurant in London.
Jorge Riera, who runs a traditional Spanish restaurant in central Madrid, said it doesn’t matter that the authorities didn’t impose specific restrictions and, at most, only issued recommendations.
“Most of our clients prioritize the well-being of loved ones over spending a fun evening with colleagues,” said Riera.
In the last week alone, cancellations have occurred for about half of the placeholder, sometimes on the same day of the event, the official said.
“People are afraid of the virus again,” he said.
Associated Press editors Kelvin Chan and Danica Kirka in London; Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar in Washington, Mae Anderson in New York, Aritz Parra in Madrid, Barry Hatton in Lisbon and Sylvia Hui in London contributed to this report.
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.