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Boston goes back into lockdown over COVID-19


The city of Boston is requiring a vaccine passport at restaurants, gyms and many indoor businesses, and city employees will be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Previously, city workers could get tested instead. The Associated Press has the story:

Protesters sing The Star Spangled Banner in opposition to Boston lockdown

BOSTON — Workers and customers at restaurants, gyms and many other indoor businesses in Boston will be required to show proof of coronavirus vaccination starting in mid-January in an effort to curb a rise in new cases across the city and state.

In addition, city employees will be required to get vaccinated, Mayor Michelle Wu said at a City Hall news conference as protesters blowing whistles, shouting “Shame on Wu,” and singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” could clearly be heard in another part of the building.

“There is nothing more American than coming together to ensure that we’re taking care of each other,” the mayor said in response to the protesters.

City workers had previously been required to show proof of vaccination or submit to regular testing, but the testing option is being eliminated, Wu said. Medical and religious exemptions will be considered. About 90% of the city’s roughly 18,000 workers are already vaccinated, she said.

The indoor mask mandate that takes effect Jan. 15 applies to restaurants, gyms, and indoor recreational facilities including theaters and sports venues, as well as some other businesses, she said. Boston has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases this month and things are expected to get worse next month with the spread of the omicron variant, said Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission.

New positive cases have increased nearly 90% compared to two weeks ago, and the city is now averaging 369 new cases per day, she said. Hospitalizations are up 60% from two weeks ago.

FILE – South African President Cyril Ramaphosa wears a face mask on a visit to a COVID-19 vaccination centre in Tembisa, South Africa, Thursday, July 29, 2021. Ramaphosa has returned to work following a week of isolation after testing positive for COVID-19. (AP Photo, File)


— British nurses warn the health care system at a breaking point as omicron cases soar

— German military gives hospital an edge in treating COVID-19 patients

— Omicron prompts World Economic Forum to delay Davos meeting until summer 2022

— Austria ends 20-day lockdown, considers move a success as virus cases plummet

Go to for updates throughout the day.


LOS ANGELES — The New Year’s Eve party planned for downtown Los Angeles’ Grand Park will not have an in-person audience due to the recent increase in COVID-19 cases in LA County, organizers said.

The “NYELA Countdown to 2022” event will instead be streamed, as it was last year.

Organizers originally planned to have an invite-only audience of LA County frontline workers and first responders.

The program will feature the band Kinky and other musical performances starting at 11 p.m. on Dec. 31.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported more than 3,500 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday as the number of daily new cases tripled over the week.

People walk by closed shops on a normally bustling shopping street in the center of Amsterdam, Monday, Dec. 20, 2021. Nations across Europe have moved to reimpose tougher measures to stem a new wave of COVID-19 infections spurred by the highly transmissible omicron variant, with the Netherlands leading the way by imposing a nationwide lockdown. All non-essential stores, bars and restaurants in the Netherlands will be closed until Jan. 14. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Kuwait has mandated that everyone who has been vaccinated against the coronavirus at least nine months ago receive a booster shot.

The Gulf Arab state says that booster shots will become compulsory starting Jan. 2 as the omicron variant courses across the region. Kuwait detected its first omicron case earlier this month.

The tiny sheikhdom has seen cases gradually trend upward this week after hitting record lows of under 50 infections a day. The government also urged all citizens and residents to avoid travel.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland’s governor announced Monday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus, but is feeling fine at the moment.

Gov. Larry Hogan tweeted that he received a positive rapid test Monday morning as part of his regular testing routine. Hogan, a cancer survivor, said he has been vaccinated and has had a booster shot. Over the summer, members of Hogan’s staff tested positive, but Hogan and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford tested negative.

“As the Omicron variant becomes dominant, I want to urge you to get vaccinated or get your booster shot as soon as possible,” Hogan tweeted.

Hogan said Sunday on “Fox News Sunday” that he is not planning to issue any new lockdown orders despite his concerns about a surge in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations. Hospitalizations in Maryland have risen by about 150% over the past two weeks, he said. The Republican governor said the state is trying to provide more support for hospitals and pushing to get more residents vaccinated amid the fast-spreading omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The state’s health department reported Sunday that 1,345 people were hospitalized, more than twice as many people who were hospitalized a month earlier. But the state has not reported data for coronavirus cases or deaths since early December, when a cyberattack hit its health department.

JOHANNESBURG — South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has returned to work following a week of isolation after testing positive for COVID-19, his office announced Monday.

Ramaphosa had mild symptoms and was treated at his official residence in Cape Town by South Africa’s military health service as the country battled a wave of the virus dominated by the highly transmissible omicron variant.

“President Ramaphosa repeats his call for everyone in the country to stay safe by being vaccinated, wearing face masks, washing or sanitizing hands frequently, maintaining a social distance and avoiding gatherings,” his office said in a statement.

South Africa’s 7-day rolling average of daily new cases has risen over the past two weeks from 16.9 new cases per 100,000 people on Dec. 5 to 33.8 new cases per 100,000 people on Dec. 19.

Although South Africa’s new confirmed cases of COVID-19 have surged since mid-November, the numbers of those hospitalized and those who have died have not followed the same upward trajectory.

DENVER — U.S. Rep. Jason Crow says he has tested positive for COVID-19 after returning from an official congressional delegation visit to Ukraine.

In a tweet on Sunday, the Colorado Democrat said he is fully vaccinated and got a booster shot and is experiencing only mild symptoms.

Crow encouraged everyone eligible to get vaccinated and boosted “to help prevent major illness and protect our community.” He also said he would continue to push for affordable access to rapid and reliable testing for all Americans.

PARIS — France’s health authority has approved COVID-19 vaccinations for children five to 11 years old and the government says injections could begin Wednesday.

France began vaccinations for children with health risks last week, and the High Authority for Health on Monday expanded its recommendation to include all 5 to 11-year-olds, using Pfizer’s pediatric dose.

It cited “the fifth wave due to the delta variant and the appearance of the omicron variant,” and said the decision came after lengthy discussions with ethical committees, medical professionals, parents and teachers. Health Minister Olivier Veran said the injections could begin Wednesday.

France is seeing more weekly confirmed virus cases than at any time in the pandemic, and a rise in hospitalizations linked to the virus. The government canceled New Year’s Eve events and is accelerating efforts to administer booster shots, but has not closed restaurants and stores or set curfews like some other European countries have done to limit the spread of omicron.

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The European Union’s drugs regulator gave the green light to a fifth COVID-19 vaccine for use in the 27-nation bloc, granting conditional marketing authorization to the two-dose vaccine made by U.S. biotech company Novavax.

The European Medicines Agency decision to recommend granting conditional marketing authorization for the vaccine for people aged 18 and over, which must be confirmed by the EU’s executive commission, comes as many European nations are battling surges in infections and amid concerns about the spread of the new omicron variant.

Novavax says it currently is testing how its shots will hold up against the omicron variant, and like other manufacturers has begun formulating an updated version to better match that variant in case in case it’s eventually needed.

The Novavax shot joins those from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca in the EU’s vaccine armory. The EU has ordered up to 100 million doses of the Novavax vaccine with an option for 100 million more.

VIENNA — As the last few regions in Austria reopened restaurants and hotels on Monday, the country reported fewer than 2,000 new coronavirus cases, the lowest number since October.

Austria saw 1,792 new infections in 24 hours, down from daily highs of around 13,000 daily cases in late November — a trend that stands in contrast to rising cases across much of Europe.

In response to a massive fourth wave of infections, the small Alpine nation went into a 20-day lockdown on Nov. 22. National lockdown restrictions were lifted for vaccinated people on Dec. 12, but remain in place for unvaccinated people.

Since Dec. 12, each of Austria’s nine states has set its own policy regarding reopening: In some states, restaurants and hotels reopened immediately, while in others they remained closed a few days longer. The capital, Vienna, opted to open shops and Christmas markets last week, but kept restaurants and hotels closed until Monday.

The latest case numbers show the benefit of the lockdown, especially as the omicron variant has led to rising cases elsewhere across Europe. Austria’s seven-day rate of new infections now stands at 215 per 100,000 inhabitants, compared with a high of 1,100 per 100,000 late last month.

LONDON — Britain’s main nurses’ union warned Monday that exhaustion and surging coronavirus cases among medical staff are pushing them to the breaking point, adding to pressure on the government for new restrictions to curb record numbers of infections driven by the omicron variant.

The warning throws into stark relief the unpalatable choice Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces: wreck holiday plans for millions for a second year running, or face a potential tidal wave of cases and disruption.

Many governments in Europe and the U.S. are confronting similar dilemmas over how hard to come down in the face of omicron, which appears more transmissible than the previous delta variant. Even if it is milder, the new variant could still overwhelm health systems because of the sheer number of infections.

Confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.K. have surged by 50% in a week as omicron overtook delta as the dominant variant.

The British Medical Association has warned that almost 50,000 doctors, nurses and other National Health Service staff in England could be off sick with COVID-19 by Christmas Day unless additional restrictions are introduced.

WESTERSTEDE, Germany — As hospitals across Europe brace themselves for a surge in coronavirus cases over the holiday season because of the new omicron variant, Westerstede Clinical Center is cautiously hopeful it can weather the storm.

The region of northwestern Germany it mainly serves has among the lowest case numbers nationally, and an above-average vaccination rate.

“I think we’re on a stable level here,” said the head of the hospital’s intensive care unit, Rene Lehr, when The Associated Press was recently granted rare access inside the facility.

The 43-year-old predicted his ICU might need to treat up to five COVID-19 patients during the period from Christmas to New Year — a number that staff can confidently handle.

In part that’s because it enjoys benefits many other hospitals don’t have. It is operated in cooperation between regional authorities and the German military, helping ensure it has state-of-the art equipment, spare beds and additional staff who work there while they are on standby for possible troop deployments.

The military’s vast resources — and its desire to keep medics at the cutting edge of their profession — mean this little-known facility was among the first in Germany to treat people with COVID-19.

GENEVA — The World Economic Forum is again delaying its much-ballyhooed annual meeting of world leaders, business executives and other elites in Davos, Switzerland, amid new uncertainties about the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The forum, which repeatedly delayed, moved and finally canceled last year’s event, says the previously planned Jan. 17-21 gathering in the alpine town will now take place in “early summer” — without giving specifics.

“Current pandemic conditions make it extremely difficult to deliver a global in-person meeting,” the forum said in a statement. “Preparations have been guided by expert advice and have benefited from the close collaboration of the Swiss government at all levels.”

The decision comes as some countries in Europe impose new restrictions or face tough choices about what to do about rising numbers of COVID-19 infections tied to omicron. Switzerland on Friday announced requirements to show proof of vaccination or COVID-19 recovery to go to restaurants and indoor events amid a spike in infections in recent weeks, largely of the delta variant.

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