This has since prompted the World Health Organisation to call for greater efforts to ensure the pandemic ends in 2022.
The director-general of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, urged nations to redouble efforts to help end the pandemic, calling for New Year events to be cancelled because it was better to “celebrate later than to celebrate now and grieve later. We have to focus now on ending this pandemic,” he said.
The Omicron variant has fuelled record case surges, forcing a return to harsh restrictions in some countries. However, according to the Press Secretary, Jen Psaki, in the United States, President Joe Biden does not plan on “locking the country down.”
In some regions of the country — the Pacific Northwest, South and parts of the Midwest — it already comprises more than 90 percent of new infections.
Biden is set to deliver an address on Covid-19 later today, however, the White House reported that a mid-level, fully vaccinated and boosted staff member had tested positive for Covid-19 after spending 30 minutes in proximity to the president three days prior. Biden has so far tested negative.
Early data suggests Omicron could be more infectious and possibly have higher resistance to vaccines, despite indications that it is not more severe than the Delta variant.
Since it was first reported in South Africa in November, Omicron has been identified in dozens of countries, dashing hopes that the worst of the pandemic is over.
The European Union approved its fifth Covid-19 jab Monday — from US firm Novavax — with Europe already far ahead of other parts of the world with its rollout of vaccines and booster shots.
Authorisation of the jab, which uses a more conventional technology than other Covid vaccines, has raised hopes that people worried about getting vaccinated might now come forward.
The other vaccines approved in the bloc are from Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, and the EU has already signed a deal to buy up to 200 million doses of the two-shot Novavax vaccine.
“At a time where the Omicron variant is rapidly spreading… I am particularly pleased with today’s authorisation of the Novavax vaccine,” EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement.
London on Monday announced it had cancelled a New Year’s Eve event in the central Trafalgar Square for 6,500 people.
Paris has already cancelled its new year celebrations, and Germany is expected to roll out tight restrictions on private parties and close nightclubs, according to a proposal seen by AFP.
“New Year’s Eve celebrations with a large number of people are unjustifiable in the current situation,” reads the draft document.