Coronavirus cases surged across the globe, darkening the holiday weekend. New daily omicron infections in the US have surpassed those in the delta wave, CNN reported.
More than 7,000 flights have been canceled worldwide over the Christmas weekend and thousands more delayed, a tracking website reported on Sunday, as the highly infectious Omicron variant brings holiday hurt to millions.
Severe weather is compounding the travel chaos in the United States, with storms expected to wreak havoc on roadways in the country's west, though they brought a white Christmas weekend to Seattle and parts of California.
According to Flightaware.com, more than 2,000 flights were canceled on Sunday - including more than 570 originating from, or headed to, US airports. More than 4,000 delays were reported.
Aircrew and ground staff have fallen sick or gone into quarantine after exposure to COVID, forcing Lufthansa, Delta, United Airlines, JetBlue, Alaska Airlines and other carriers to cancel flights during a peak travel period.
More than 2,800 flights were scrubbed around the globe on Saturday, including more than 990 originating from or headed to US airports, with over 8,500 delays. On Friday, there were around 2,400 cancellations and 11,000 delays.
"Help @united flight cancelled again. I want to get home for Christmas," one exasperated traveler from the US state of Vermont tweeted early Saturday.
Flightaware data showed United canceled around 200 flights on Friday and nearly 250 Saturday - about 10 percent of those that were scheduled.
"The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation," United said in a statement Friday.
Delta scrapped 310 flights Saturday and over 100 more Sunday, saying it has "exhausted all options and resources."
"We apologize to our customers for the delay in their holiday travel plans," the company said.
The cancellations added to the frustration for many people eager to reunite with their families over the holidays after last year's Christmas was severely curtailed.
Chinese airlines accounted for the highest number of cancellations, with China Eastern scrapping more than 1,000 flights, over 20 percent of its flight plan, on Friday and Saturday - and Air China grounding about 20 percent of its scheduled departures over the period.
France reported a daily record of more than 100,000 new cases as the government considers stricter social measures, while Italy also saw its highest infections. But daily cases in Germany eased further, while Russia reported the lowest level of new infections since the end of September.
The coronavirus can spread within days from the airways to the heart, brain and almost every organ system in the body, where it may persist for months, a study found.
Australia reports first death from Omicron
Australia's most populous state recorded its first known death linked to the Omicron variant.
A man in his 80s, who had received two doses of vaccine and had underlying health issues, died in Western Sydney after becoming infected in a nursing home, New South Wales Health reported in a video update Monday.
Singapore adjusts Omicron approach on quarantines
Singapore is adjusting its approach to managing Omicron cases and will issue a seven-day health risk warning to close contacts of the variant rather than quarantining them for 10 days, the Ministry of Health said in a statement.
The ministry said it expects more Omicron infections than for Delta, and in the coming days it expects a rapid doubling of cases. But the ministry also sees proportionately fewer severe cases or deaths than Delta, due to the lower severity of the Omicron variant and protection from vaccinations and boosters.
Indonesia's new infections at 21-month low
Southeast Asia's biggest economy added 92 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, the fewest since March 23, 2020, taking the total to more than 4.26 million, according to the Health Ministry. As many as 110.6 million people, or 53 per cent of the targeted population, have received two doses of vaccines.
The country has tightened its borders, especially land and sea, due to rise in positive rate triggered by the emergence of the omicron variant.
Pandemic causes sharp rise in UK poverty
Almost a million Britons were forced into poverty by the economic disruption caused by lockdowns, according to a report published in the Telegraph. The Legatum Institute said the figure was due to decline by three-quarters by the spring of 2022 but that further restrictions risked this recovery.
The Times reported that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is determined to keep schools open despite rising numbers of COVID cases. Johnson is under pressure from members of his own party, many of whom are opposed to additional measures.
Russia sees fewest cases since September
Russia registered 23,721 new cases in the past day, the lowest level since the end of September, according to data from the government's National Virus Response Center. Daily deaths were at 968, the lowest since mid-October.
Russia's daily COVID cases and deaths reached a record early in November, but have declined since then. The country found cases of the new omicron strain in December, but all of them were reported on flights from abroad and people were isolated, the Health Ministry said on Saturday, according to Interfax.
New Zealand cases more than double over holiday
COVID cases in New Zealand have more than doubled in the two days since Christmas Eve, with 126 new infections in the community reported Sunday. Forty-five people are hospitalized with the virus, including eight in intensive care.
Cases in Australia also continue to trend upward. In New South Wales - the most populous state - new cases exceeded previous daily records with 6,394 new infections reported. Further south in Victoria, numbers declined 27% compared to a day prior with 1,608 new cases. Six more people in Victoria entered the intensive care unit, with 129 people in the ICU across both states.
US omicron daily cases surpassing delta
New daily US cases from the omicron variant have now surpassed delta's peak, CNN reported.
Hospitalizations remain lower than the peaks earlier this year, it said. More than 69,000 people were hospitalized on Friday, CNN said, citing Department of Health and Human Services data.