U.S. officials made it clear Friday that they are urging Americans not vaccinated to do so in light of the recent omicron variant. This has led to record numbers of New York City infections and threatens to end a holiday season.

Even though the calendar will soon change, Friday was very much 2020. NFL games had been postponed due to COVID-19 infections. Rockettes cancelled their Christmas show. European governments placed a series of restrictions on ground travel that halted it and made travelers stay low.

Although much remains to be known about the omicron variant, officials say that it is more easily transmitted than the delta variant. This has put pressure on hospitals around the world. Many people were forced to alter their plans by the uncertainty.

United States President Joe Biden’s administration resisted tightening any restrictions, but also sketched out dire scenarios for the unvaccinated in a plea for hesitant Americans to get the shot.

“For the unvaccinated, you’re looking at a winter of severe illness and death, for yourselves, your families, and the hospitals you may soon overwhelm,” White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said Friday, echoing the president’s own comments earlier this week.

The new variant is already in “full force” in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, with new cases hitting a one-day record of more than 8,300 on Thursday. But new hospitalizations and deaths – so far – are well below their spring 2020 peak and even where they were this time last year, city data shows.

On Friday, December 17, 2021 in New York, people waited in line for a COVID-19 test at the mobile testing location in Times Square.
via Associated Press

Sports in America were also disrupted by the coronavirus. Three games were pushed back by the NFL due to outbreaks. It is not known if the outbreaks were caused by the Omicron strain.

Due to breakthrough COVID-19 cases, the Radio City Rockettes had to cancel four of their Friday performances. Plans for future shows are still being evaluated. Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan usually hosts four Christmas shows each day.

Rutgers University professor of epidemiology Dr. Stanley Weiss stated that officials should respond faster. She cited the willingness to expand fully-vaccinated vaccinations to include booster shots.

“Everyone wants us to be through with this pandemic, but in order to get us through it, we can’t ignore the realities of what’s going on and what is needed,” Weiss said.

Denmark decided to close theaters, concert halls, amusement parks and museumsIn response to viruses. Spain: Friends and classmates cancelled traditional Year-End dinners.

Scotland and Wales on Friday pledged millions of pounds for businesses hurt in Britain’s latest infection surge, a move that heaped pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government to do the same in England.

Treasury chief Rishi Sunak held talks with business representatives who have demanded more support, decrying a “lockdown by stealth” in which government officials recommend people cut back on socializing as much as possible without officially imposing the strict rules of past shutdowns.

Britain saw record infections this week with over 93,000 reported cases on Friday alone.

There was a wave in cancellations at many businesses, from hotels to theaters and vacation operators to bars and pubs. This is because customers made the decision to stop merrymaking now and not risk becoming infected or missing their family’s celebrations.

Even Britain’s Christmas pantos — beloved and raucous holiday performances — are under threat. Customers who decided to not attend the shows at Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, in west England had to return 180,000 pounds (or $240,000) worth of tickets. It was also forced to cancel 12 performances of “Beauty and the Beast” because half the cast tested positive.

“There’s been a real dent of confidence,” Executive Director Joanna Reid told the BBC.

Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said Friday that financial assistance for business must come from the central government because it has the borrowing power to finance the scale of aid that is needed.

“Business is already bleeding, every 24 hours counts,” Sturgeon said during a briefing in Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital. “There is no time to waste.”

Tourism and travel are already in crisis.

Eurostar operates trains along the English Channel and sold all tickets for France to France before restrictions on travel from Britain were implemented. LONG lines stretched around the Eurotunnel’s parking lot, which operates the tunnel drivers use to cross water.

Ryanair originally expected to carry about 11 million passengers in December, but that figure dropped to 10 million, chief executive Michael O’Leary told the Guardian. Europe’s biggest airline will also cut about 10% of its capacity in January.

Amanda Wheelock (29), a University of Michigan graduate student, cancelled a planned trip to France together with her partner because of the high number of cases there. Even though the surge isn’t necessarily due to omicron, the uncertainty about the new variant, and a new requirement that all U.S. travelers have to test negative before flying back to the U.S., made her worry that the trip would be more stressful than fun.

Instead, she’s traveling to the Anchorage, Alaska, area to see friends.

“A vacation with a lot of stress is probably not a great vacation,” said Wheelock, who is from Arvada, Colorado.

According to The Advantage Travel Group (which represents approximately 350 U.K. agents), business dropped by 40% between a month ago and mid-December. Those numbers, including flights, cruise bookings and package holidays, add to the travel industry’s existing slump, which had already seen business fall by two-thirds since the pandemic began, CEO Julia Lo Bue-Said.

“Our members are dealing with customers who are really nervous about traveling now,” she said “They’re really nervous about bookings for the New Year because they fear that there’s a risk that the government will make more knee-jerk reactions.”

Many people in hospitality and the travel industry hoped that they would have overcome the pandemic nearly two years ago. They saw this holiday season as a chance to claw back some of what was lost — until omicron cast a pall reminiscent of the early days of the crisis.

Richard Stevens believes he lost 4,000 Pounds ($5,300) in bookings for his French Alps rental chalet after stricter rules were made regarding travel from Britain.

He lost his first reservation when a guest called to say that the restrictions won’t allow anybody to come to France without a compelling reason, Stevens said. “And the compelling reason doesn’t include going on holiday.”

Celebrity chef Michel Roux and other restaurateurs have invested heavily to remake their venues to address safety concerns — and hoped to reap some of the benefits.

To return to a state of huge uncertainty for a second consecutive Christmas is “like a kick in the stomach,” said Roux, who has a destination restaurant in London.

Jorge Riera, who manages a traditional Spanish diner in central Madrid, said it doesn’t matter that authorities have not imposed specific restrictions and, at most, have only issued recommendations.

“Most of our customers prioritize the well-being of their relatives over going out for a fun night with colleagues,” Riera said.

The manager stated that cancellations for half of the available space have been received in the past week, often on the same event day.

“People are once again afraid of the virus,” he said.

Source: HuffPost.com.

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