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Thousands of flights scrapped globally as Omicron mars Christmas weekend

Reuters – Global airline carriers canceled more than 3,000 flights over the Christmas weekend, the FlightAware website said, as a spike in COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant piled on misery for travelers.

The website showed that 2,175 flights around the world had been scrapped on Friday, which is Christmas Eve and a typically heavy day for travel. Around a quarter of those flights were in the United States.

Another 1,259 Christmas Day flights were called off globally, the website said amid a surge in COVID-19 infections driven by Omicron.In Britain, many industries and transport networks were struggling with staff shortages as sick workers self-isolated, while hospitals have warned of the risk of an impact on patient safety.

One in 20 Londoners had COVID-19 last week and that could have risen to 1 in 10 by the start of this week, according to statistics released on Thursday by the Office for National Statistics.

Britain recorded a record number of new coronavirus cases on Thursday as the Omicron variant swept across the country.

In the United States, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines both canceled dozens of Christmas Eve flights because of staff shortages amid the surge in infections.

Despite the grim news around the world, millions of Americans carried on with travel plans through a second pandemic-clouded holiday season and most U.S. flights went ahead.

Moses Jimenez, an accountant from Long Beach, Mississippi, flew to New York with his wife and three children, even though the latest torrent of coronavirus cases dashed their hopes to catch a performance of “Hamilton” or visit some museums.

“Hamilton” was one of a dozen Broadway shows forced to cancel shows this week as cast and crew members tested positive for COVID-19. Museums were scratched from the family’s itinerary because many now require proof of vaccination and the two younger children are ineligible for the shot.

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

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

New York will sharply limit the number of people it allows in Times Square for its New Year’s Eve celebration, in response to the surge of new coronavirus cases.

For a second year in a row, the virus that causes COVID-19 is casting a shadow over the festivities, which typically draws huge crowds to the famed intersection in Midtown Manhattan.

COVID-19 infections have surged in the United States in recent days due to Omicron, which was first detected in November and now accounts for nearly three-quarters of U.S. cases and as many as 90% in some areas, such as the Eastern seaboard.

The Biden administration will next week lift travel restrictions on eight southern African countries imposed last month over concerns about the Omicron variant, the White House said.

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