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Biden calls on Americans to vaccinate to fight Omicron as Europe braces for 'storm'

CoronavirusDec 21, 2021 05:33PM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Healthcare workers administer COVID-19 tests at St Vincent's Hospital drive-through testing clinic at Bondi Beach in Sydney, December 17, 2021. AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi via REUTERS 2/2

By William Maclean and Steve Holland

LONDON/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Countries across Europe considered new curbs on movement on Tuesday while U.S. President Joe Biden appealed to all Americans to get vaccinated to fight the Omicron variant sweeping the world days before the second Christmas of the pandemic.

Omicron infections are multiplying across Europe, the United States and Asia, including in Japan, where a single cluster cases at a military base has grown to at least 180.

"If you're not fully vaccinated, you have good reason to be concerned," Biden said at the White House, where he unveiled plans to buy 500 million rapid COVID-19 tests to be distributed for free to Americans who request them starting in January.

Striking a dire tone about the risks to the one in four American adults still unvaccinated, he said: "Your choice can be the difference between life and death."

Biden also activated some 1,000 military medical personnel to support hospitals already being overwhelmed.

Omicron now accounts for 73% of all new cases in the United States, up from less than 1% at the beginning of the month.

Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization's European head, told a news conference in Vienna that within weeks Omicron would dominate in more countries of the region, "pushing already stretched health systems further to the brink."

"We can see another storm coming," Kluge said.

Germany, Scotland, Ireland, the Netherlands and South Korea are among countries to have reimposed partial or full lockdowns or other social distancing measures in recent days.

Portugal ordered nightclubs and bars to close and told people to work from home for at least two weeks from Saturday.

Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland - part of the United Kingdom but with devolved responsibilities for health - set out plans for further restrictions on big public events, including sports fixtures, for three weeks after Christmas.

"It will also mean unfortunately that large scale Hogmanay celebrations, including that planned here in our capital city (Edinburgh), will not proceed," she said, referring to traditional Scottish New Year parties.

New Zealand COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said his country, which imposed some of the world's toughest COVID-19 measures, was delaying the start of a staggered reopening of its border until the end of February.

"All of the evidence so far points to Omicron being the most transmissible COVID-19 variant yet," he said.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany will introduce new steps including limiting private gatherings for vaccinated people to a maximum of 10 before New Year's Eve. Scholz agreed with the premiers of the 16 federal states that big events, including football matches, would be without spectators.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would not introduce new COVID-19 curbs in England before Christmas, but the situation remained extremely difficult and the government might need to act afterwards.

Finance minister Rishi Sunak announced 1 billion pounds ($1.3 billion) of extra support for businesses hit hardest by Omicron, which is hammering the hospitality sector and other businesses.

'I UNDERSTAND THAT MANY ARE TIRED'

Omicron's rapid spread means many Britons are changing Christmas plans last-minute, despite a lack of formal curbs.

Twenty-four-year-old medical student Rebecca Gilmore, who lost her younger brother to suicide earlier in the year, said being apart from her family was especially hard this year but self-isolating with her partner was the right thing to do.

"It means I'm protecting the most vulnerable people," she said.

Sweden will urge all employees to work from home if possible and impose tighter rules for social distancing.

"I understand that many are tired of this - so am I - but we now have a new virus variant, which means we are in a new situation," said Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.

Omicron has hit financial markets hard in recent days over fears for the global economic recovery, but world shares gained on Tuesday, with the dollar softening as appetite for riskier assets made a cautious return.

Wall Street's main indexes ended sharply higher, rebounding from a coronavirus-fueled rout on Monday.

As of Tuesday, the variant has been confirmed in 106 countries, according to the WHO, after it was first detected last month in southern Africa and Hong Kong.

The severity of illness it causes remains unclear, but the WHO warned it is spreading faster than the Delta variant and is causing infections in people already vaccinated or who have recovered from the COVID-19 disease.

Israel recorded its first known death from the Omicron variant, according to Israeli news media which reported that an elderly man died in Beersheba on Monday.

More than 274 million people have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus globally since the pandemic began nearly two years ago. More than 5.65 million people have died.

Interactive graphic: Tracking global spread of coronavirus: https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/

Eikon users can click https://apac1.apps.cp.thomsonreuters.com/cms/?navid=1063154666 for a case tracker.

Biden calls on Americans to vaccinate to fight Omicron as Europe braces for 'storm'
 

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Comments (10)
Jeremy Johnson
Jeremy Johnson Dec 21, 2021 5:51PM ET
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Or just stay home, rest, take a warm bath, drink lots of water, herbal teas, load up on vit. D, etc. and take some Advil cold and flu if needed?
Sabi Sab
SabiSab Dec 21, 2021 5:29PM ET
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Take New York State for example.  We have the toughest vaccine mandate in the whole nation, especially in New York City.  Now we have the most number of daily new cases EVER, 24,543!  How do you, Biden, convince me the vaccines actually work?
Sabi Sab
SabiSab Dec 21, 2021 5:29PM ET
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Zebra Lo Those vaccines won't work .  Why inject poison into your body anyway?  Do the math.  60% of Americans are fully vaccinated and yet, the number of new cases is worse than when nobody's vaccinated?  How can that be?
Anthony Cloud
Anthony Cloud Dec 21, 2021 5:29PM ET
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Sabi Sab because those who got vaccinated now have compromised immune systems. We have been saying this all year.
Steve Hillman
Steve Hillman Dec 21, 2021 9:40AM ET
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for Omicron, hospitalizations and death rate are very low. this is all govt hysteria to sell vaccines. guys and girls, you need to get educated. Fauci makes money when vaccines are given to the world population. dig deeper in your research on this topic
Bob Collins
Bob Collins Dec 21, 2021 9:40AM ET
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Fauci is either completely incompetent, or intent on *****people.
Optimum integrated Services
Optimum integrated Services Dec 21, 2021 9:40AM ET
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you said it all
Roger Miller
Roger Miller Dec 21, 2021 9:01AM ET
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Everyone’s getting the Omicron vaccine whether they want it or not.
azim miechal
azim miechal Dec 21, 2021 6:59AM ET
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we have no weapon to kill covid forever... after 6 month it will again come with new variant..how many booster shots we will take now.. inflation will make world bankruptcy debt
jason xx
jason xx Dec 21, 2021 6:27AM ET
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I bet there was some nice government insider trading before they bought all those at home test kits.
Ac Tektrader
Ac Tektrader Dec 21, 2021 12:38AM ET
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It's about 1 in 410 Americans have died from covid-19. and the pandemic death rate is rising again .... this time it's the antivaccers that are taking the brunt of the attack of this horrible disease...
Sabi Sab
SabiSab Dec 21, 2021 12:38AM ET
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Take New York State for example.  We have the toughest vaccine mandate in the whole nation, especially in New York City.  Now we have the most number of daily new cases EVER, 24,543!  How do you convince me the vaccines actually work?
William Smith
William Smith Dec 21, 2021 12:33AM ET
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Such manipulation. I read am article thos evening that said 73% of all cases on USA are now Omicron. But mid afternoon I read am article that said less than 5% of cases in USA run a test to verify the variant!!! Plus, if 73% are Omicron it means Delta cases have declined nearly 75% in one month. Shows government and media make up numbers to fit their daily agendas.
jason xx
jason xx Dec 21, 2021 12:33AM ET
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Shows you are believing sketchy sources
jason xx
jason xx Dec 21, 2021 12:33AM ET
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Lol "it means 75% of delta have declined"..... Really? one month you have 100 cases of delta. Next month you have 100 cases of delta and 300 cases of omnicron.
Bob Collins
Bob Collins Dec 21, 2021 12:33AM ET
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jason xx do tell, who are the reliable sources?
Tyrone Jackson
Tyrone Jackson Dec 20, 2021 10:22PM ET
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Seasonal flu- boo Scare the weak Lockdown the strong.
Ac Tektrader
Ac Tektrader Dec 20, 2021 10:22PM ET
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Tyrone, that's a Pretty WEAK statement.
Corey DeLaplain
SniperSam Dec 20, 2021 10:22PM ET
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Tyrone, right on the money!
ron king
ron king Dec 20, 2021 10:19PM ET
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all bs! its all made up and will never go away until their objective is met. what ever that might be.
Edward Chong
Edward Chong Dec 20, 2021 10:19PM ET
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so can u enlighten me what objectives it might be? its been 2 years ??
Ac Tektrader
Ac Tektrader Dec 20, 2021 10:19PM ET
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Ron has a problem with the truth, so he makes it up as he goes along. if truth doesn't fit in with what he wants to belief, then there must be some sort of conspiracy.
Corey DeLaplain
SniperSam Dec 20, 2021 10:19PM ET
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Ron, people like Fraud-chi need to go to jail! This entire mess has been handled in typical big Gov fashion, ineptley!
Bob Collins
Bob Collins Dec 20, 2021 10:19PM ET
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Eliminate as many humans as possible, reduce birth rates, establish a Neofeudalist society, and a cultural Marxist Totalitarian One World government where only the Globalist elites own any real property.
Bob Collins
Bob Collins Dec 20, 2021 10:19PM ET
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Bob Collins people like Edward and Ac Tek are all in.
 
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