104,611 cases Saturday in France, Air traffic disrupted … update on the coronavirus

New measures, new reports and highlights: an update on the latest developments in the Covid-19 pandemic around the world.

The situation in France

This is unheard of since the start of the health crisis: France crossed the threshold of 100,000 new Covid-19 cases on Saturday, Christmas Day in 24 hours, while the government must reassess the situation on Monday in the face of the progression of the Omicron variant. With 104,611 new cases, the country has reached a threshold unprecedented since the start of the epidemic in March 2020, according to Public Health France. A level that has doubled in three weeks.

The meteoric progress of the new Omicron variant raises gloomy projections a few days before the transition to 2022. « The realistic scenario is that in mid-January we (either) have 200,000 contaminations a day », estimated the infectious disease specialist Benjamin Davido on Friday on CNews. With the risk, mentioned by the Scientific Council, of a paralyzed society because of an increase in work stoppages and « absenteeism ». The Minister of Health Olivier Véran indicated that the government would take care to « avoid any phenomenon of paralysis ». The executive is also mobilized on Monday. Emmanuel Macron will hold by videoconference a Health Defense Council dedicated to Covid-19 at 4:00 p.m., one hour before the Council of Ministers which must adopt the bill establishing the vaccine pass. Its entry into force is scheduled for January 15, according to the law consulted by AFP.

In detail, the text transforms the health pass into a vaccination pass « for access to leisure activities, restaurants and drinking establishments, fairs, seminars and trade shows or even interregional transport », in particular rail.

The only presentation of a negative test would however remain valid « for the access to establishments and services of health and medico-social ». On the health situation, government spokesman Gabriel Attal had specified that a « reassessment » was scheduled for Monday, while Omicron is spreading « at a very rapid pace » in France and should become « in the majority » in the next few days .

A few days before the New Year, will the government announce stronger restrictions or will it choose the status quo? And what about the duration of isolation for « contact cases »? In Savoie, the prefect has already given an additional turn of the screw. A decree extends the measures in force since November 30, requiring the wearing of masks for people eleven years of age and over, including outdoors, in places with more than 10 people, such as markets, theaters, etc. Wearing a mask is also compulsory for those aged eleven and over from 9 a.m. to midnight in the municipalities of Chambéry, Aix-les-Bains and Albertville, and those of ski resorts (such as Tignes or La Plagne).

While Omicron is not causing a wave of hospitalizations for the moment, its potential repercussions are worrying. « If you evict (all positive cases and contact cases) in the school system, the police, the hospital, (the company) will be at a standstill », warned Friday on Webrema Gilles Pialoux, head of Tenon Hospital Infectious Diseases Department. If several studies show that the effectiveness of vaccines is significantly reduced with only two doses against Omicron, a booster dose would increase the level of protection. The High Authority for Health (HAS) thus recommended Friday that the booster dose can be performed from three months for the eligible population.

While waiting to examine this opinion, the Ministry of Health has announced that the deadline has now been reduced to 4 months. Until then it was 5 months after the previous injection. In addition to the health consequences, the list of disturbances linked to Omicron is growing day by day in France and elsewhere. As of this Christmas weekend, more than 5,600 flights have been canceled by airlines around the world, while thousands more are delayed, due to the isolation of many company and airport personnel.

Disrupted air traffic

Some 6,300 flights were canceled by airlines across the world over Christmas weekend, with the Omicron variant of the Covid-19 disrupting travel during the holidays, with pilots in particular in quarantine. According to the latest report from the Flightaware website, there were nearly 2,800 flight cancellations on Saturday, 970 of which were trips linked to the United States, whether for international or internal connections. Friday, about 2,400 cancellations had been identified according to the same source, which already has more than 1,100 cancellations planned for Sunday.

Pilots, flight attendants and other staff members had to be quarantined after being exposed to Covid, which forced Lufthansa, Delta and United Airlines to cancel flights. According to Flightaware, United Airlines had to cancel around 439 flights on Friday and Saturday, or about 10% of those that were scheduled.

« The peak of Omicron cases across the country this week has had a direct impact on our crews and the people who run our operations, » said the US company, which said it is working to find solutions for passengers affected. Delta Air Lines also canceled more than 300 flights on Saturday, and 170 the day before, again according to Flightaware, citing both Omicron and, occasionally, adverse weather conditions. « The Delta teams have exhausted all options and resources » before coming to these cancellations, argued the airline. More than ten Alaska Airlines flights, whose employees said they were « potentially exposed to the virus » and had to self-isolate in quarantine, have also been canceled.

Chinese airlines were responsible for the most cancellations: China Eastern cut around 540 flights, more than a quarter of its flight plan, while Air China canceled 267 flights, also near quarter of his scheduled departures. These cancellations disrupt the desire to resume travel this year for the holidays, after a Christmas 2020 hit hard by the pandemic. According to estimates by the American Automobile Association, more than 109 million Americans were expected to leave their immediate area by plane, train or car between December 23 and January 2 – a 34% increase from the figure. last year.

The balance sheet in the world

The pandemic has made at least 5,391,404 dead worldwide since the end of 2019, according to a report established by AFP from official sources on Saturday at 11am GMT.

In absolute terms, the countries which have recorded the most deaths are the United States (816,436), Brazil (618,392), India (479,520) and Russia (302,250).

Among the hardest hit countries, Peru is the one with the highest death toll relative to its population, followed by Hungary and Bosnia.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, taking into account the excess mortality directly and indirectly linked to Covid-19, that the toll of the pandemic could be two to three times higher than that officially recorded.

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