World braces for pandemic clouded second Christmas

The world is preparing for a second Christmas clouded by pandemonium ; crumb

MISE & Agrave; DAY

Billions of people around the world are celebrating a Christmas clouded by COVID-19 and the explosion of cases linked to the Omicron variant on Friday, resulting in numerous restrictions on time for family reunions. & nbsp;

In Bethlehem, a Palestinian city in the occupied West Bank, several hundred people gathered, despite the cold and the overcast sky, in Manger Square to follow a parade of Palestinian scouts, berets with pom poms on their heads.

< p> “It's so different from other years, when it was crowded,” said Kristel Elayyan, who came from Jerusalem. “Oh my god, a foreigner !, we say to ourselves now when we meet one,” smiles this Dutch woman married to a Palestinian.

The sound of drums and bagpipes brought a bit of gaiety to this square which adjoins the Basilica of the Nativity, the birthplace of Jesus according to Christian tradition.

As in 2020, midnight mass will be there. reserved for a small circle of faithful, by invitation only. It is to be celebrated by the apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Pierbattista Pizzaballa. & Nbsp;

In the Vatican, the traditional Christmas Mass will be presided over by Pope Francis at 7:30 p.m. (6.30 p.m. GMT) in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, before the eighth Urbi et Orbi blessing of the Argentine Pontiff from St. Peter's Square the next day. .

Elsewhere, the surge in COVID-19 infections is casting a chill on party projects. Gatherings will generally be easier than last year, even though the Netherlands is confined, Broadway canceled Christmas shows, and Spain and Greece reintroduced the mandatory outdoor mask.

The UK, faced with 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.

< p> Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the best Christmas gift was to be given a dose of the vaccine “whether it's your first or your second, or your booster”.

< p>Airlines have had to cancel more than 2,000 flights worldwide, nearly a quarter of which are in the United States, especially in the face of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 which disrupts travel during the holidays.

Millions of Americans are preparing to cross their country despite everything, although the Omicron wave has already exceeded the peak of the Delta variant, with 171,000 daily cases on average over seven days, and hospitals are running out of beds.

President Joe Biden visited a Washington hospital with his wife Jill Biden, the latter carrying on the tradition of the first lady visiting hospitalized children every year end. & Nbsp;

The presidential couple admired lanterns made by young patients, and slipped them some anecdotes about Commander, a German Shepherd whose recent arrival at the White House has made social networks happy.

“Fragment of hope”

Most Australians can once again travel within the country, for the first time since the start of the pandemic, reinforcing the Christmas spirit in a country which is yet experiencing a record number of contaminations.

The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, praised in his Christmas message the “moving scenes of people finding themselves in airports after months of separation”.

In France, the number of tests made by the French wanting to reunite with their loved ones for Christmas hit a record high of over 6.2 million last week. And another record broken, with 91,608 confirmed cases on Thursday. & Nbsp;

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

It has further accelerated in almost all regions of the world during 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 border closures and restrictions will not prevent a famous reindeer sleigh from roaming the globe.

This is what the Minister of Transport in Ottawa assured, giving the green light to the crew, even to Rudolph whose “nose was shining brightly (but) made sure he had no symptoms of COVID-19 before taking off.”

Same thoughtfulness on the side Australian: “Our air traffic controllers will guide Santa Claus safely through Australian airspace,” the Air Safety Authority said.

“He is cleared to fly at 500 feet to be able to graze the roofs and deliver his gifts quickly and discreetly. ”

In Brazil, a black Santa Claus arrived by helicopter distributed food packages to residents of the Penha favela, in Rio de Janeiro. & nbsp;

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

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