Hours of Buenos Aires | The world is about to ring another pandemic Christmas

The rise of Omicron heralded another pandemic-tinged Christmas for billions of people around the world, with the arrival of Santa Claus and long-awaited family reunions overshadowed by the prospect of even more Covid restrictions.

Party jokes about reindeer having ‘herd immunity’ and millions of ‘Home Alone’ isolators may be thin, but the emergence of the ultra-infectious variant of Omicron means the pandemic is not going to come to naught go.

For a second year in a row, the spike in infections has complicated Christmas plans from Sydney to Seville.

In Argentina, a new wave of infections – dubbed the “third wave” by local experts – saw the number of daily confirmed cases climb to 13,456 yesterday – more than a third of the tally recorded last Thursday (5,301).

For the fifth day in a row, the rate of positive tests for Covid controls in the country exceeded the rate recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) by 10%. Of the 80,924 tests carried out yesterday on the national territory, 16.62% came back positive.

In response to the wave, authorities in the province of Cordoba have suspended all major events in enclosed spaces or in the open.

On Friday morning, Argentina’s national government also announced that it would extend the public health emergency declared for the coronavirus pandemic until December 31, 2022.

La Casa Rosada also confirmed that as of December 20, “93 percent of people over 18 and 91.4 percent of the population over 12 received at least one dose” of the Covid-19 vaccine, while “82.4 percent of those over the age of 18 completed the” two-dose immunization schedule.

Thames

In Bethlehem – the city Christians believe to be the birthplace of Jesus – hoteliers who expected an influx of tourists were disappointed. After a near-total lockdown from the pandemic last year, Israel’s borders are closed again.

This year, like last year, midnight mass in the city on Christmas Eve will be reserved for a small circle of invite-only people and the Friday celebrations have been moderate.

“It’s kinda surreal … there’s a selfish part where it’s like ‘oh I can see this place so empty’ but on the other hand you feel for the stores, all the money they lose, it’s really quite tragic, “American student Hudson Harder told AFP.

In Europe, governments are reimposing poverty-inducing security measures that deplete Christmas fun for many.

The Netherlands are blocked again while Spain and Italy have made the wearing of masks compulsory outside.

And with the UK recording a record number of Covid-19 infections on Thursday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has suggested getting the vaccine as a Christmas present for loved ones.

In France, the government has urged people to receive booster shots just three months after the first shots, up from the currently suggested five months as it sought to combat the rapidly spreading Omicron.

“Burst of hope”

Yet Christmas gatherings will be easier than a year ago in many other places around the world.

Most Australians are allowed interstate travel over the holidays for the first time in two years, bringing a touch of Christmas sparkle even as the number of cases hits record highs.

“We have all witnessed the moving scenes of people at airports after months of separation,” Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher said in his Christmas message. “In such dark times, Christmas is a ray of light, a ray of hope.”

Pope Francis must still deliver the traditional midnight mass on Christmas Eve from Saint Peter’s Basilica.

Millions of US citizens are also on the move during the busy travel days leading up to Christmas, even as Covid infections with Omicron pass the peak of the Delta Wave and hospitals run out of space for patients.

However, thousands of them are set to face a bleak holiday weekend, with major carrier United canceling 120 flights because the number of infections impacted flight crews and other operations.

And the specter of getting sick also rattled the nerves and threatened the plans.

“I was planning on meeting my family, but I could be positive for Covid so it’s something I don’t think is going to happen,” said Maria Felix, a resident of Queens while awaiting the test result.

Operation Present Drop

A sign of people’s gloomy mood, one of the most popular shows on Netflix heading into Christmas has been The unforgivable, a less than festive story of a murderer released from prison and struggling to gain redemption.

Books on Identity and Slavery Overcome The New York Times Best-sellers and a swearing rant about a bad breakup topped the Spotify charts – even beating Mariah Carey’s Eternal Christmas hit “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”

But the angst over a seemingly endless crisis, long lines for tests, canceled flights, and close contact notifications won’t stop Santa from making his rounds.

The shaggy spreader of holiday cheer was reportedly cleared for travel through Canadian airspace after showing proof of vaccination and a negative Covid test before the flight, the Ottawa transport minister said.

Santa’s flight crew – including the reindeer Rudolph, whose “nose glowed bright red [but] made sure he had no symptoms of Covid-19 before taking off “- were also given the green light.

And Australian authorities have said they are working around the clock to ensure “Operation Present Drop” runs smoothly.

“Our air traffic controllers will guide Santa Claus safely through Australian airspace,” said Airservices, the air safety authority.

“He’s cleared to fly at 500 feet so he can roam the rooftops and deliver his gifts quickly and silently – after all, his magic sled is no ordinary plane.”

– SCHEDULES / AFP / NA

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