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Thousands of flights canceled globally as Omicron March Christmas weekend

NEW YORK, Dec. 24 (Reuters) – Commercial airlines around the world canceled more than 4,500 flights over the Christmas weekend as an increasing wave of COVID-19 infections driven by the Omicron variant created greater insecurity and misery for holidaymakers.

Airlines globally scrapped at least 2401[ads1] flights on Friday, which fell on Christmas Eve and is usually a heavy day for flights, according to a running review on the flight tracking website Almost 10,000 more planes were delayed.

The website showed that 1,779 flights on Christmas Day were canceled worldwide, along with 402 more that were scheduled for Sunday.

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Commercial air traffic within the United States and in or out of the country accounted for more than a quarter of all canceled flights over the weekend, FlightAware data showed.

Among the first U.S. airlines to report a wave of cancellations over the weekend were United Airlines and Delta Air Lines (DAL.N), which scrubbed nearly 280 flights in total on Friday alone, citing staff shortages in the midst of the COVID increase. 19 infections.

COVID-19 infections have increased sharply in the US in recent days due to the highly transmissible variant Omicron, which was first discovered in November and now accounts for almost three quarters of US cases and as many as 90% in some areas, such as .ex. east coast. read more

The average number of new US coronavirus cases has risen 45% to 179,000 per day in the past week, according to a Reuters report.

New York reported more than 44,000 newly confirmed infections on Friday alone, breaking the state’s daily record. At least 10 other states set new one-day records on Thursday or Friday.

Increasing hospital admissions hit the health care system particularly hard in the Midwestern United States, with intensive care units in Indiana, Ohio and Michigan preparing for the worst even though they are still under pressure from a previous wave of cases of Delta variants.

In the UK, many industries and transport networks struggled with staff shortages as sick workers isolated themselves, while hospitals have warned of the risk of impact on patient safety. read more

One in 20 residents of London had COVID-19 last week, a number that could rise to one in ten early next week, according to data released Thursday by the Office for National Statistics.

Passengers queue at John F. Kennedy International Airport after airlines announced that many flights were canceled during the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant on Christmas Eve in Queens, New York City, USA, December 24, 2021. REUTERS / Dieu-Nalio Chery

Government data showed a record number of 122,186 new infections across the country on Friday, marking a third day in which the number of known cases has exceeded 100,000.

While recent research suggests that Omicron produces milder diseases, and a lower frequency of hospitalizations, than previous variants of COVID-19, health authorities have maintained a cautious note about the outlook.

“It’s a glimmer of Christmas hope … but it’s definitely not yet at the point where we can downgrade the serious threat,” Jenny Harries, head of the UK Health Security Agency, told the BBC.

France broke another COVID-19 infection record on Friday, with the daily number exceeding 94,000 while hospital admissions from the virus reached a seven-month high, prompting the government to convene a special meeting on Monday that could trigger new public health restrictions. read more

Despite the uncertainty and the gloomy news around the world, millions of Americans continued with travel plans through a new pandemic-clouded holiday season.

Moses Jimenez, an accountant from Long Beach, Mississippi, flew to New York with his wife and three children, although the latest influx of coronavirus cases shattered their hopes of catching a Broadway performance of “Hamilton” or visiting some museums.

“Hamilton” was one of a dozen productions that canceled shows this week, as cast and crew members tested positive for COVID-19. Museums were scrapped from the family’s itinerary because many now require proof of vaccination and the two younger children are not eligible for the shot.

Instead, Jimenez, 33, said his breeding will make the best of roaming the city’s streets and parks while watching relatives and friends.

“We just wanted to get out of the house, really, get the kids out of town for Christmas,” Jimenez told Reuters Thursday at New York’s LaGuardia airport.

New York plans to sharply limit the number of people it allows in Times Square for its annual outdoor New Year celebration, in response to the wave of new coronavirus cases, and limit the number of attendees to 15,000.

The Biden administration will next week lift travel restrictions on eight South African countries that were imposed last month due to concerns about the Omicron variant, the White House said.

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Reporting by Alistair Bell, Arriana McLymore, David Ljunggren, Maria Caspani and David Shepardson; Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing Howard Goller, Diane Craft and Sandra Maler

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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