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Omicron spreads global gloom over New Year’s celebrations

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People wearing face masks enjoy a shower of artificial snow in Covent Garden, London.

BELGIUM: After struggling with the coronavirus for far too long, the world understands all too well Belgium’s word of the year, “knaldrang!” – the urge to party, the need to let loose. Yet as New Year celebrations approach, the omicron variant is casting more gloom.

Monday was a case in point, with several Governments considering more restrictions to add to a patchwork of measures and lockdowns already in place around Europe.

The French Government and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson were assessing the latest data and the need to counter the record numbers of COVID-19 infections with more measures to keep people apart at a time when they so dearly want to be together.

In Belgium, people faced their first real test with several new measures on Monday.Shopping was reduced to maximum two adults, possibly with kids in tow, and movie theatres and concert halls closed at a time when countless families are on vacation together. In the United Kingdom, there are similar creeping moves. Scotland will close its nightclubs Monday after Northern Ireland and Wales already did so on Sunday, though they remain open in England. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has resisted ordering new restrictions but hasn’t ruled them out, is expected to be briefed Monday on the latest data on spread of omicron.

France has recorded more than 100,000 virus infections in a single day for the first time in the pandemic and COVID-19 hospitalizations have doubled over the past month.

In Poland, a nation of 38 million where the daily death toll now often breaks through the threshold of 500 cases, nightclubs may be closed, but they will be allowed to reopen on New Year’s Eve, with the Government unwilling to go against the many voters opposed to restrictions and mandatory vaccinations.

In Italy, the Government has not mandated any rules for private gatherings, but it has set its sights on New Year’s Eve, banning outdoor events and closing discotheques until end of January. The Netherlands is currently the exception to the rule of disjointed decision-making. The Government there has gone farther than most European countries and shut down all nonessential stores, restaurants and bars and extended the school holidays in a partial new lockdown.


Wednesday, December 29, 2021 – 01:00

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