Millions of people around the world were preparing on Thursday for a celebration of New Year drastically limited by the blazing spread of the COVID-19, which in the week of December 23 to 29 surpassed the symbolic milestone of one million daily infections.
In the last seven days, an average of 1,045,000 infections were detected daily, 46% more than the previous week, according to an AFP count on Thursday established from official balances.
The coronavirus, detected two years ago and declared a global pandemic in March 2020, has already killed more than 5.4 million people, triggered economic crises and forced societies to live between intermittent lockdowns.
So far, the explosion of cases has not translated into an increase in the death toll.
But the omicron variant, while considered to cause milder symptoms than previous ones, has raised the infection to record levels.
From Mexico to Greece and from France to Brazil, the strong rebound is forcing governments to reimpose restrictions and in some cases, to cancel New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Pope Francis canceled his traditional New Year’s Eve visit to the manger in St. Peter’s Square out of concern that the coronavirus would spread among the assembled crowd, the Vatican reported Thursday.
In Greece, “music will be prohibited” in bars and restaurants, which will close at midnight and 2 on 31 ″ warned the Minister of Health, Thanos Plevris, to try to limit the desire to go out of his compatriots on the occasion of the change of year .
The Hellenic country registered a new maximum of daily infections on Wednesday, in the path of other countries that have been beating their record of cases for days such as France, the United Kingdom or Spain.
In Spain, public celebrations were canceled in most cities, except Madrid, where a public celebration limited to 7,000 people is scheduled, compared to 18,000 in 2019. The country again broke the record for daily infections on Thursday, with 161,688 cases in 24 hours.
In France, which exceeded the threshold of 200,000 new infections per day for the second day in a row, the nightclubs, closed since December 10, will continue like this for at least the first three weeks of January.
In addition, the bars of Paris will have to close the blind at 2 in the morning and from Friday, it will be mandatory to wear a mask outdoors for those over 11 years old.
Denmark, which currently has the highest number of new cases in the world relative to its population, also exceeded the threshold of 20,000 additional infections for the second day in a row.
The rebound in infections has also reached Latin America and the Caribbean, where Cuba will require a complete vaccination schedule and a PCR test to enter the country as of January 5.
The region now accumulates more than 47 million infections and about 1.6 million deaths.
In Mexico City and Sao Paulo, the authorities canceled the New Year celebrations due to the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, in Rio de Janeiro, the mythical Copacabana beach, which normally attracts more than three million people at New Year’s Eve, will have limited capacity, will not hold concerts and the traditional fireworks will be fired in nine different locations in the city to avoid excessive concentration of the public.
Similar restrictions are multiplied by many countries of the world in the face of the highly contagious new variant.
Indonesia, for example, which has reported more than 4.2 million confirmed cases, has warned that foreign travelers will be deported from the resort island of Bali if they are caught violating sanitary rules during the Christmas period.
Bali has banned carnivals, fireworks and gatherings of more than 50 people during the Christmas and New Year period.
In Saudi Arabia, the authorities reimposed distancing measures on the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca.
“At the edge of collapse”
“I am extremely concerned that omicron, being more transmissible and circulating at the same time as delta, is causing a tsunami of cases,” warned WHO director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday.
Faced with this situation, the United States health authorities – with an average of more than 265,000 infections a day – urged the population on Thursday to avoid traveling on cruise ships even if they were vaccinated.
“Health systems are on the verge of collapse,” added the head of the WHO.
On Thursday, the UK’s National Health Service announced that it would start opening temporary field hospitals to contain a possible glut of hospitalized patients in England.
In China, residents of the city of Xi’an, where 13 million people remain confined, complained of not finding enough food, despite Beijing’s assurance that the situation was under control.
State television showed images of workers in hazmat suits sorting eggs, meat and vegetables, before delivering food to residents door-to-door.
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