Disruptions to transport, health services as Omicron soars in Europe

Madrid Desk, Dec 29 (EFE).- The global surge of the Omicron coronavirus variant is being felt on transport and service industries due to an increase in worker absences while healthcare systems are also noting a rising Covid-19 patients although so far with less severity than in previous waves.

The number of Covid-19 cases worldwide rose 11% last week as the highly-contagious Omicron variant took hold in a number of countries, although the global mortality rate decreased in that same time period by 4%, suggesting the new variant was less deadly than its dominant predecessors like Delta.

In its weekly report, the World Health Organization reported 4.9 million Covid-19 cases around the globe between 20-26 December, the highest figure in six months.

In absolute terms, Europe saw the largest rise in cases with 2.8 million, a 3% rise compared to the previous week.

Daily infection records have been tumbling across Europe in recent days.

France on Wednesday recorded 208,000 new infections in the previous 24 hours, a national and European record, according to health minister Olivier Veran.

French lawmakers are studying a government proposal that would ban unvaccinated people from accessing public spaces such as bars, restaurants, libraries and sporting facilities.

The law, which the government wants to enforce next month, would mean proof of a negative Covid-19 test would no longer be sufficient to access such establishments.

In Italy the rise in infections and the number of people forced to quarantine has led to train cancellations and huge waiting time for Covid-19 tests. There are an estimated 2.5 Italians isolating at home.

The UK’s prime minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday acknowledged that the Omicron-driven surge in cases had led to a rise in hospital admissions.

“The Omicron variant continues to cause real problems. You are seeing cases rising in hospitals. But it is obviously milder than the Delta variant and we are able to proceed in the way that we are,’ he said. His government recently dismissed the possibility of introducing further restrictions in England ahead of the New Year.

Health authorities in Israel are mulling a change of approach to the Omicron variant of coronavirus that would involve allowing the apparently milder form of the disease to spread widely rather than enforce restrictions, according to local media.

Spain’s government beefed up protocol for travellers entering the country from high-risk areas, who will now need to show proof of a negative test as well as a vaccine certificate. The country on Tuesday registered a daily record of 99,671 cases. EFE


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