LONDON — Travel industry officials have expressed dismay at French restrictions on arrivals from Britain, describing the new rules to prevent the spread of the omicron variant as a hammer blow to the industry.
The comments by Mark Tanzer, chief executive of travel and trade association Abta, came after medical officials expressed alarm at what they described as the phenomenal speed at which the variant is spreading. Travel officials demanded government help to help battered businesses.
“The winter sports and school travel markets are particularly exposed, and the government must now bring forward a support package if we are not to see company failures and job losses,” Tanzer said.
Tanzer said the sector has had little opportunity to make money since the start of the pandemic, and will now be faced with another wave of cancellations.
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The new French measures place limits on reasons for traveling and requiring 48-hour isolation upon arrival. The new rules take effect first thing Saturday.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC:
— EU leaders discussing rise of infections, spread of omicron
— France to restrict travel from Britain to fight omicron
— Vaccine skeptics in Eastern Europe having change of heart
— US sports leagues cope with COVID-19 outbreaks amid variants
— New California rules end distinction for vaccinated workers
— Israel to donate 1 million COVID vaccines to African nations
Go to https://APNews.com/coronavirus-pandemic for updates throughout the day.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING TODAY:
WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s Health Ministry has confirmed the country’s first case of infection with the omicron coronavirus variant in a woman from Lesotho.
The case was found in a sample examined in Katowice. The ministry tweeted Thursday that the 30-year Lesotho citizen feels well but has been put in hospital isolation.
It said national health authorities have taken necessary steps. That usually means contacting, testing and putting under quarantine people who have had contact with the infected person.
The first Polish person diagnosed with omicron was a teenager who travelled to China this month and tested positive on arrival.
LISBON, Portugal — Portugal’s prime minister says he intends to keep tighter COVID-19 border controls in place beyond their planned end on Jan. 9 because of the threat from the highly infectious new omicron variant.
He says Portugal is also likely to provide another booster shot next year for already vaccinated vulnerable people who are receiving a booster after having the COVID-19 jab earlier this year.
Portugal requires a negative test for all passengers on arriving flights.
Prime Minister António Costa told reporters Thursday that border controls will continue beyond Jan. 9 and could even be tightened. He didn’t elaborate.
The government had previously announced a “contention week” from Jan. 2-9, when working from home is mandatory and schools will be closed.
LONDON — British restaurants and pubs demanded government help as the omicron variant threatened businesses with closure at the height of the crucial and lucrative Christmas season.
U.K. hospitality appealed to the government for business rates relief and value-added tax discounts, warning that fears about the new variant have already had an impact on the sector, with sales already having plunged by a third in the last 10 days — reflecting 2 billion pounds ($2.6 billion) in lost trade.
Jonathan Neame, the chief executive of pub and brewery Shepherd Neame, said the government comments and concerns will throw his business back to the start of the pandemic.
“We’ve seen a significant number of cancellations and that’s accelerating every day, and will accelerate even further after the news last night, which seems to have thrown us back into that sort of zombie world of the first week of March, of the pandemic last year,” he told Times Radio.
The U.K. recorded the highest number of confirmed new COVID-19 infections Wednesday since the pandemic began.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey is offering COVID-19 booster shots for people who received their second shots at least three months ago as a measure to fight the omicron variant.
The measure, announced late Wednesday, cuts by three months the previous six-month interval between the second shot and the booster vaccine.
The country of nearly 84 million has so far reported six cases of the omicron variant.
BRUSSELS — A summit of European Union leaders is trying to coordinate action to tackle the surge of coronavirus infections across the continent and the emergence of the new omicron variant while keeping borders open.
The bloc’s leaders want to avoid a confusing mixture of rules with the festive season looming. And they want to ensure all 27 member states are on the same page and that the COVID-19 certificates continues to guarantee unrestricted travel.
But alarming rises in infections have prompted many European governments to implement public health measures and new restrictions in recent weeks.
PARIS — France will restrict arrivals from Britain because of fast-spreading cases of the omicron virus variant.
The government spokesman said Thursday that France will impose limits on reasons for traveling and a new requirement of a 48-hour isolation upon arrival. The new measures are taking effect first thing Saturday.
The government is holding a special virus security meeting Friday that will address growing pressure on hospitals in France from rising infections in recent weeks.
Delta remains the dominant variant in France. But omicron is spreading so fast in Britain that it is raising concerns across the Channel. The U.K. recorded the highest number of confirmed new COVID-19 infections Wednesday since the pandemic began.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Swedish authorities say citizens from fellow Nordic countries will have to show a valid COVID-19 vaccination certificate when entering Sweden starting next week.
As of Dec. 21, people from Norway, Finland, Denmark and Iceland no long will have an exemption to the certificate requirement and must also show their passes to enter Sweden.
The country’s social affairs minister also encouraged all travelers to be tested for the coronavirus upon entry due what she called a “deteriorating” public health situation. Sweden has previously stood out among European nations for its comparatively hands-off response to the coronavirus.
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Some former vaccine skeptics in Eastern Europe are shifting over to the other side.
Fata Keco was afraid of possible adverse side effects when she rolled up her sleeve in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo to take her first COVID-19 vaccine shot. but the worst she had to contend with was “moderately discomforting pain” in her left arm.
The 52-year-old joined the global community of vaccine-believers after months of “being very susceptible” to what she now describes as “the most ridiculous theories.” She is not alone. Countries like Bosnia and Romania are seeing their vaccination rates rise amid tighter COVID-19 restrictions.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia has detected its first case of the omicron variant of the coronavirus in a cleaning worker at a hospital in Jakarta.
The patient has no symptoms and is being quarantined at the Athlete’s Village emergency hospital, where the patient worked.
The government created the facility in March 2020 to treat COVID-19 patients and as a quarantine venue for Indonesians returning from abroad. Indonesian Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said the case was found on Wednesday, and he urged people to continue to follow recommended health protocols, including wearing masks and maintaining physical distance.
He also called for increased testing and to accelerate the country’s vaccination program.
DENVER — U.S. sports leagues are seeing rapidly increasing COVID-19 outbreaks with dozens of players in health and safety protocols, amid an ongoing surge by the delta variant of the coronavirus and rising cases of the highly transmissible omicron mutation.
Both the NBA and NHL have postponed games over the last month with so many players sidelined, and the men’s basketball teams at Tulane and the University of Washington have had cancellations.
But don’t expect the leagues to return to “bubble” play or shut down until things subside. Experts say managing outbreaks is easier with highly vaccinated rosters, and there’s too much at stake to cut back seasons.
SACRAMENTO, California — Workplace regulators are poised to extend California’s coronavirus pandemic regulations into next year with revisions that businesses say could worsen the labor shortage.
The main change in the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board’s revised rule Thursday is that it would erase current distinctions between vaccinated and unvaccinated employees.
Both would be barred from the workplace if they come in close contact with someone with the virus. Exposed, vaccinated but asymptomatic workers would have to stay home for 14 days even if they test negative. If they return to work, they would have to wear masks and stay six feet (about two meters) from anyone else during those two weeks.
JERUSALEM — The Israeli government says it is donating 1 million coronavirus vaccines to the U.N.-backed COVAX program.
The Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that the AstraZeneca vaccines would be transferred to African countries in the coming weeks. It says the decision is part of Israel’s strengthening ties with African countries.
COVAX is a global initiative that aims to provide coronavirus vaccines to poorer nations. Wealthier countries have acquired the most of the world’s vaccine supplies, causing vast inequality in access to jabs. Israel was one of the first countries to vaccinate its population. Early this year, it came under criticism for not sharing enough of its supplies with the Palestinians.
NEW YORK — U.S. health officials say pets and another animals can get the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. But the risk of them spreading it to people is low.
Dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, otters, hyenas and white-tailed deer are among the animals that have tested positive, in most cases after contracting it from infected people.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 should avoid contact with pets, farm animals and wildlife, as well as with other people. The best way to prevent the virus from spreading among animals is to control it among people.
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