Omicron: SAGE warning calls for policy decisions 'sooner'
We use your sign-up to provide content in ways you’ve consented to and to improve our understanding of you. This may include adverts from us and 3rd parties based on our understanding. You can unsubscribe at any time. More info
US airlines have been hit hard with more than 1,000 cancellations on Friday and Saturday as crews tested positive or were forced to self-isolate to curb the variant’s spread. Thousands of people have had their Christmas plans thrown into disarray as a result.
The US is experiencing a sharp rise in Covid cases as are countries around the world.
A total of 689 flights into or out of the US were cancelled on Friday, according to the FlightAware website.
More than 700 are expected to be cancelled on Christmas Day itself with Delta, United Airlines and American Airlines the worst affected.
United Airlines said rising numbers of Omicron cases had had a direct impact on its flight crews and those running its operation, adding that it was contacting affected passengers in advance.
Global airlines have cancelled more than 4,000 flights that had been scheduled to take off on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the US’s top infectious disease expert, warned this week that Christmas travel would increase the spread of the variant even among those who are fully vaccinated.
The US announced previously that it would lift travel restrictions imposed on South Africa and seven other African countries out of concern over the Omicron variant on New Year’s Eve.
Travellers from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi had been blocked from entering the country since November 29.
READ MORE ON BRITS URGED TO GET BOOSTERS ON BOXING DAY
Thousands of journeys were affected in Australia on Friday with more than 100 domestic flights from Sydney and Melbourne cancelled.
A spokesperson for the airline Jetstar, which accounted for many of the cancellations, told the BBC it had re-booked the vast majority of affected passengers within a few hours of their original departure time so they can get to their destination in time for Christmas.
Despite initial findings that Omicron is milder than other Covid variants, scientists remain concerned at the number of infections.
Dr Hallie Prescott, associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan, told the New York Times: “When we have millions and millions and millions of people, all sick, all together at one time, it doesn’t take a large percentage of those people to topple over the hospitals.”
Meghan Markle dropped devastating Christmas update on Instagram [REVEALED]
BBC boycott from TODAY as views urged to switch off this Christmas [REPORT]
Your fault, Barnier! Ex-EU Brexit chief blasted after UK jibe [LATEST]
The UK saw record-breaking case numbers on Friday. Volunteers are preparing for a Christmas Day booster jabs push to stem Omicron’s tide.
More Britons have been forced to abandon Christmas holiday plans as Austria becomes the latest country to impose tougher restrictions on UK tourists entering the country.
From Christmas Day, anyone who arrives in Austria from the UK will have to provide proof they are being double-vaccinated and boosted as well as showing evidence of a negative PCR test.
Anyone without the documentation will be told to stay in quarantine for 10 days.
It is a huge blow to the winter sports industry, which was already suffering after France banned almost all arrivals from Britain.
Skiers who had switched their booking from France to Austria now face even more disappointment.
Tour operators have started cancelling holidays to Austria over the difficulty in getting the necessary PCR test during Christmas.
Crystal Ski, Britain’s biggest winter sport company, told Sky News: “Unfortunately, due to the short notice of the new Austrian entry requirement, we’ve made the difficult decision to cancel our holidays to Austria on December 27.
“We know that last-minute testing is extremely challenging, even more so given that the tests would need to be taken on Christmas Day or Boxing Day.
“With limited testing availability and capacity nationwide, we’re aware the vast majority of our customers would’ve been unable to meet this new requirement to travel.”
Tougher travel rules have also hit cruise line MSC Cruises which has cancelled four sailings from the UK by its ship MSC Magnifica due to pandemic restrictions across Europe.
The cruises, which were due to depart from Southampton on December 21 and 28 as well as January 4 and 11, were scheduled to call at France, Germany and the Netherlands, all of which have introduced new travel rules.
Ryanair and easyJet have also reduced their capacity for January, anticipating a decline in passenger numbers.
A spokesman for Ryanair said: “In responding to these restrictions, Ryanair has now cut its January capacity by 33 percent, reducing its expected January traffic from approximately 10 million to 6-7 million.”
Source: Read Full Article