Thousands of flights canceled around the world over Omicron’s Christmas weekend March

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NEW YORK, Dec. 24 (Reuters) – Commercial airlines around the world canceled more than 4,500 flights over Christmas weekend as a growing wave of COVID-19 infections caused by the Omicron variant created greater uncertainty and greater misery for vacation travelers.

Airlines around the world cut at least 2,401 flights on Friday, which fell on Christmas Eve and is typically a busy day for air travel, according to an ongoing tally on flight tracking site FlightAware.com . Almost 10,000 more flights were delayed.

The website showed that 1,779 flights on Christmas Day were canceled around the world, along with 402 more that were scheduled for Sunday.

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Commercial air traffic within the United States and to and from the country accounted for more than a quarter of all canceled flights over the weekend, according to data from FlightAware.

Among the first U.S. carriers to report a wave of holiday weekend cancellations were United Airlines and Delta Air Lines (DAL.N), which cleaned up nearly 280 combined flights on Friday alone, citing staff shortages in the midst of the wave of COVID-19 infections.

COVID-19 infections have increased in the United States in recent days due to the highly transmissible variant Omicron, which was first detected in November and now accounts for nearly three-quarters of cases in the United States and up to 90% in some areas, such as the East Coast. Read more

The average number of new coronavirus cases in the United States rose 45% to 179,000 per day over the past week, according to a Reuters tally.

New York alone reported more than 44,000 newly confirmed infections as of Friday, shattering the state’s daily record. At least 10 other states set new single-day case records Thursday or Friday.

The surge in hospitalizations hit healthcare systems in the US Midwest particularly hard, with intensive care units in Indiana, Ohio and Michigan bracing for the worst even though they remain under pressure from a previous wave of Delta variant cases.

In Britain, many industries and transport networks struggled with staff shortages as sick workers isolated themselves, while hospitals warned of the risk of impact on patient safety. Read more

One in 20 Londoners had COVID-19 last week, a figure that could rise to one in 10 early next week, according to data released Thursday by the Office for National Statistics.

Passengers line up at John F. Kennedy International Airport after airlines say many flights have been canceled amid the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant on Christmas Eve in Queens, New York, States -Unis, December 24, 2021. REUTERS / Dieu-Nalio Chery

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Government data showed a record 122,186 new infections nationwide on Friday, marking a third day in which the number of known cases exceeded 100,000.

While recent research suggests that Omicron produces milder illness and a lower hospitalization rate than previous variants of COVID-19, health officials have maintained a cautious note on the outlook.

“There is a silver lining for Christmas… but it is certainly not yet to the point where we can reduce this serious threat,” Jenny Harries, head of the British Health Security Agency, told the BBC.

France hit another COVID-19 infection record on Friday, with a daily tally exceeding 94,000 as hospitalizations from the virus peaked in seven months, prompting the government to call a special meeting on Monday that could trigger new public health restrictions. Read more

Despite the uncertainties and grim news around the world, millions of Americans continued with their travel plans during a second holiday season marred by the pandemic.

Moses Jimenez, an accountant from Long Beach, Mississippi, flew to New York City with his wife and three children, even as the latest torrent of coronavirus cases dashed their hopes of attending a Broadway performance of “Hamilton “or to visit some museums.

“Hamilton” was one of twelve productions to cancel shows this week as cast and crew members tested positive for COVID-19. Museums have been wiped off the family’s itinerary as many now require proof of vaccination and the two youngest children are not eligible for the vaccine.

Instead, Jimenez, 33, said his offspring would do their best to walk the city streets and parks, while seeing relatives and friends.

“We just wanted to get out of the house, really, bring the kids into town for Christmas,” Jimenez told Reuters Thursday at LaGuardia Airport in New York City.

New York was planning to sharply limit the number of people allowed in Times Square for its annual outdoor New Years celebration, in response to the wave of new coronavirus cases, capping the number of attendees at 15,000.

The Biden administration will lift travel restrictions imposed last month on eight southern African countries next week over concerns over the Omicron variant, the White House has said.

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Reporting by Alistair Bell, Arriana McLymore, David Ljunggren, Maria Caspani and David Shepardson; Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Howard Goller, Diane Craft and Sandra Maler

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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