Australia on Monday recorded its first death due to the Omicron variant of the coronavirus amid another surge of cases, Reuters reported.

The man in his 80s contracted the infection at an aged care facility and died in a Sydney hospital. He was fully vaccinated but had underlying health conditions.

The states of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland reported a total of 9,107 coronavirus cases on Monday, while five other states and territories were yet to release daily figures.

Even as the country was on track for another record rise in Covid cases, authorities refused to announce restrictions saying hospitalisation rates remained low.

Flights grounded

Meanwhile, the coronavirus pandemic continued to scramble Americans’ travel plans. More than 1,000 flights in the United States were cancelled on Sunday as employees tested positive for coronavirus, The New York Times reported.

According to the flight-tracking company FlightAware, more than 1,300 flights with at least one stop in the US had been cancelled as of Sunday evening. Many of the flight cancellations occurred on Delta, United, SkyWest, American and JetBlue airlines.

Derek Dombrowski, a JetBlue spokesman, said the airline has “seen an increasing number of sick calls from Omicron”.

Despite early studies showing that Omicron is milder than other variants, scientists are concerned by the sheer number of infections being recorded around the world.

The number of Covid-19 cases in the US is also on the rise, with an average of nearly 1,90,000 new infections reported daily over the past seven days, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

Health officials in New York also reported a four-fold increase in hospitalisation of children. Approximately half of those admitted to hospitals are under the age of five, ones that are ineligible to get vaccinated against Covid, AFP reported.

The US chief medical adviser, Anthony Fauci, told ABC News that coronavirus cases will continue to rise worldwide because of the Omicron variant. Fauci stressed that it is not the time to “get complacent”.

He added, “If you have many, many, many more people with a less level of severity, that might kind of neutralise the positive effect of having less severity when you have so many more people. And we’re particularly worried about those who are in that unvaccinated class. Those are the most vulnerable ones when you have a virus that is extraordinarily effective in getting to people and infecting them the way Omicron is.”


Restrictions in Europe

Across Europe, authorities are introducing restrictions to combat the surge of cases, largely driven by the Omicron variant.

  • Italy has made face masks compulsory outdoors again.
  • Greece has ordered people to wear masks indoors and outdoors.
  • The Netherlands entered a strict lockdown over Christmas.
  • Germany restricted private gatherings to a maximum of 10 people and starting December 28 nightclubs will be closed.
  • In Portugal, bars and nightclubs will be shut from Monday and remote working has been mandatory until January 9.