The World Health Organization has urged people to cancel some of their holiday plans to protect public health as the Omicron variant spreads globally.
WHO head Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “An event cancelled is better than a life cancelled.” adding that “difficult decisions” must be made.
He said, “In some cases, that will mean cancelling or delaying events.”
He added that there was now “evidence that Omicron is spreading significantly faster than… Delta”.
Dr Tedros’ comments come as a number of countries – including France and Germany – have tightened COVID restrictions and imposed travel curbs to try to halt the spread of the new variant.
The Netherlands has introduced a strict lockdown over the Christmas period.
The White House said yesterday that President Joe Biden was not planning on “locking the country down”.
The country’s top infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, earlier warned that Christmas travel would increase the spread of Omicron even among the fully vaccinated.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the State Department have advised Americans against travel to eight places including Spain, Finland, Chad and Lebanon.
Bonaire, Monaco, San Marino and Gibraltar have also been added to its Level 4: Very High classification.
Health experts say, Omicron is now the dominant strain in the US.
In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said yesterday that the government needed to “reserve the possibility” of bringing in new rules in England as Omicron cases surged but did not announce further restrictions.
Mayor Sadiq Khan said New Year’s Eve celebrations in London’s Trafalgar Square have been cancelled “in the interests of public safety.”
Omicron – first detected in South Africa in November – has been classed as a “variant of concern” by the WHO.