Covering the global arcs of the second Christmas pandemic

Billions of people around the world are celebrating a mysterious Christmas due to COVID-19 and the explosion of cases linked to the Omicron variant on Friday, which has led to numerous restrictions on time for family reunions.

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In Bethlehem, a Palestinian city in the occupied West Bank, several hundred people, despite the cold and cloudy skies, gather in Manger Square to follow the parade of Palestinian scouts, hats with little balls on their heads.

“It’s very different from other years when it was crowded,” said Christel Alyan, who comes from Jerusalem. “Oh, my God, a foreigner! We say to ourselves now when we meet,” smiles this Dutch woman married to a Palestinian.

The sound of drums and bagpipes brought some joy to this square adjacent to the Cathedral of the Nativity, the birthplace of Jesus according to Christian tradition.

As in 2020, midnight mass will be dedicated to a small circle of believers, by invitation only. It is to be celebrated by the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Pierbattista Pizzaballa.

In the Vatican, Pope Francis will preside over the traditional Christmas Mass at 7:30 p.m. (6.30 p.m. GMT) in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, before Orbi and Ori’s eighth blessing to the Argentine pontiff from Saint Peter’s Square. The next day.

Elsewhere, an increase in COVID-19 infections is causing chills on party projects. Gatherings will generally be smoother than last year, even with the Netherlands restricting, Broadway canceling Christmas shows, and Spain and Greece reintroducing the mandatory outdoor mask.

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The UK, in the face of a meteoric spread of the Omicron variant, recorded more than 122,000 additional COVID-19 cases on Friday, a new record since the start of the pandemic.

Britain-health-virus-retail

France Press agency

The prime minister, Boris Johnson, has said the best Christmas gift is to get a shot of the vaccine “whether it’s the first or second, or the booster”.

Airlines have had to cancel more than 2,000 flights around the world, nearly a quarter of them in the United States, especially in the face of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 disrupting holiday travel.

Millions of Americans are preparing to cross their country anyway, even though the Omicron wave has already passed the peak of the delta variable, with an average of 171,000 daily cases over a seven-day period, and hospitals running out of beds.

President Joe Biden visited a hospital in Washington with his wife Jill Biden, the latter continuing the tradition of the first lady visiting children in the hospital each year.

Biden's US policy

France Press agency

The presidential couple admired the lanterns made by young patients, and ditched some tales about Commander, a German shepherd whose recent arrival at the White House has delighted social media.

Most Australians can once again travel within the country, for the first time since the start of the pandemic, boosting the Christmas spirit in a country that has so far suffered a record number of infections.

In his Christmas message, the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher praised “the poignant scenes of people meeting at airports after months of separation”.

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In France, the number of tests conducted by French people wanting to find their loved ones at Christmas reached a record high of more than 6.2 million last week. And it broke another record, with 9,608 confirmed cases on Thursday.

The pandemic has killed at least 5,385,564 people worldwide since the end of 2019, according to an AFP report from official sources on Friday.

Its pace has accelerated further in almost every region of the world over the past week, with the exception of the Middle East and Asia, according to AFP databases.

Morocco has extended until the end of January the closure of its air borders, in force since November 29.

But closing borders and restrictions won’t stop the famous reindeer sleigh from roaming the world.

This was confirmed by Ottawa’s Minister of Transportation, giving the green light to the crew, even to Rudolph whose “nose was sparkling (but) he made sure he had no symptoms of COVID-19 before take off.”

Same thinking from the Australian side: “Our air traffic controllers will guide Santa Claus safely in Australian airspace,” the Air Safety Authority said.

“He is authorized to fly at 500 feet to be able to graze rooftops and deliver his gifts quickly and discreetly.”

In Brazil, a black Santa Claus arrived by helicopter and distributed food parcels to residents including a favela in Rio de Janeiro.

“The children look at me, smile, play and talk. They feel represented when they see a black Santa Claus,” said Leonardo Pereira da Silva, 30, a slum dweller and member of the NGO Central unicas das favelas (CUFA).

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