DBillions of people around the world are preparing to celebrate a cloudy Christmas on Friday due to the explosion of the Omicron variant, which translates into numerous restrictions on the time of family gatherings. For the second year in a row, the rise in Covid-19 infections is putting a chill on holiday projects, from Sydney to Seville.
In Bethlehem, the hotel industry that was expecting an influx of tourists is showing its disappointment. After almost total containment last year, Israel has once again closed the borders. The scouts, wearing pom-pom berets on their heads, began their traditional parade around 9 am in the old town, under a cloudy sky and in the cold of the morning. The sound of drums and bagpipes brought some joy to the Place de la Manger, which borders the Basilica of the Nativity, the birthplace of Jesus according to Christian tradition.
In the square where a giant tree stands, only a few spectators, Palestinians and foreigners living in Israel or the West Bank, took pictures of the scout procession with their phones. As in 2020, the midnight mass will be reserved there for a small circle of the faithful, by invitation only. The procession led by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, is expected to draw more people than last year thanks to more relaxed restrictions.
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The great crossover of millions of Americans
At the Vatican, the traditional Christmas Mass will be presided over by Pope Francis at 7:30 p.m. in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, before the eighth urbi et orbi blessing of the Argentine Pontiff from St. Peter’s Square the following day. In other parts of the world, even with the Netherlands closed, Broadway canceled Christmas shows and Spain reintroducing the mandatory outdoor mask, get-togethers will generally be easier than last year.
Millions of Americans are preparing to cross their country, even though the Omicron wave is already past the peak of the Delta variant and hospitals are running out of beds. Travel can be difficult for many of them, as the main company, United, has announced the cancellation of 120 flights due to the impact of infections on its staff.
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In Australia, most citizens are able to travel within the country again, for the first time since the start of the pandemic, reinforcing the Christmas spirit in a country that is still experiencing a record number of contaminations. “We have all witnessed moving scenes of people in airports after months of separation,” said Sydney Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher in his Christmas message. “In such a dark time, Christmas is a ray of sunshine, a fragment of hope,” he added.
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Vaccination of the British, a Christmas present awaited by Boris Johnson
For British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a vaccination certificate would be the most beautiful effect at the foot of the tree. “While in theory the time to buy gifts is running out, there is still one wonderful thing that you can give to your family and the whole country, and that is to get that dose, be it the first, second or repeat, to May next year’s festivities be even better than this year’s, ”he said.
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In Moscow, amid tension with Western countries over Ukraine, Vladimir Putin asked Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost, local version of Santa Claus) to help Russia carry out its plans. “I hope that he will not only bring us gifts, but also carry out the projects of the country and of each citizen,” said the Russian president.
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After regaining hope of freedom thanks to vaccination, the appearance of the highly contagious variant Omicron has darkened the atmosphere in homes. As the holidays approach, Netflix’s most popular show Unforgivable tells, far from being a Christmas tale, the difficulty of redemption after years in prison for murder. On Spotify, the indestructible “All I want for Christmas is you” was overtaken by a song about a breakup full of profanity.
The airspace open to Santa Claus.
But the border closures and restrictions will not prevent a famous reindeer sleigh from traveling the world, having opened Canadian airspace, after the presentation of a vaccination certificate and a negative Covid test. This was assured by the Minister of Transport in Ottawa, giving the green light to the crew, including Rudolph, whose “nose was glowing brightly, (but) he made sure that he did not have any symptoms of Covid-19 before taking off.”
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Same consideration from the Australian side: “Our air traffic controllers will guide Santa Claus safely through Australian airspace using our surveillance technology to track him twice a second,” said the Aviation Safety Authority. “You are allowed to fly up to 500 feet so you can skim over the rooftops and deliver your gifts quickly and discreetly. After all, your magic sleigh is no ordinary plane. “
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