January 2 coronavirus pandemic and Omicron variant news

By Fernando Alfonso III and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 0558 GMT (1358 HKT) January 3, 2022
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2:58 p.m. ET, January 2, 2022

Bulgaria identifies first Omicron variant cases

From CNN's Talia Kayali

The first cases of the Omicron variant have been detected in Bulgaria, according to Dr. Angel Kunchev, Bulgaria’s chief government health inspector.

The variant has been detected in 12 people, according to Kunchev. Most of the infected people are from the country’s capital Sofia and are experiencing mild symptoms.


1:18 p.m. ET, January 2, 2022

More than 2,200 flights canceled so far Sunday

From CNN’s Keith Allen 

US airlines have canceled more than 2,200 flights so far Sunday, marking the seventh day in a row of at least 1,000 cancellations and the second straight day topping the 2,000-cancellation mark, according to FlightAware.

So far, airlines have canceled 2,265 flights within, into or out of the United States, and another 3,229 flights are delayed today, according to FlightAware.

There were 2,749 US flights canceled on Saturday due to a combination of Covid-19 disruptions and wintry weather, FlightAware reported.

2:25 p.m. ET, January 2, 2022

France strengthens testing in schools to avoid classes closure

From CNN's Sandrine Amiel

Children attend class in Ormesson-sur-Marne, France, on December 3.
Children attend class in Ormesson-sur-Marne, France, on December 3. (Isa Harsin/Sipa/AP)

French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer outlined new Covid-19 rules for schools in an interview with Le Parisien newspaper published on Sunday, as the country faces a fifth wave of infections. 

From Monday, if a positive Covid-19 case is detected in a class, all other students will have to take three tests in four days to stay in school, Blanquer said.

“As soon as a positive case appears in a class, all students must take an antigen test or PCR, before returning upon the presentation of a negative result. What changes is that from now on, when the family takes the first test, they will receive two free self-tests in the pharmacy, so that the students can test themselves again at home on day 2 and day 4. Parents will have to certify in writing that the tests have been carried out and that they are negative,” the minister told Le Parisien.

So far, classes were required to close for seven days when three students tested positive, according to the education ministry. 

The logic behind the new rules is to “test more to avoid closing classes,” Blanquer said.


10:53 a.m. ET, January 2, 2022

"There will be further clarification" on CDC guidelines to end Covid-19 isolation, Fauci says

From CNN's Ben Tinker

Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks with CNN on Sunday.
Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks with CNN on Sunday. (CNN)

Dr. Anthony Fauci discussed whether shorter Covid-19 isolation guidelines from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were driven by science or by societal and business pressures.

“There’s no doubt that you do want to get people out into the workplace if they are without symptoms," Fauci told CNN. 

“In the second half of a ten-day period, which would normally be a ten-day isolation period, the likelihood of transmissibility is considerably lower,” Fauci explained on CNN Sunday. “For that reason, the CDC made the judgment that it would be relatively low risk to get people out. You’re right – people are getting concerned about why not test people at that time? I, myself, feel that that’s a reasonable thing to do. I believe that the CDC soon will be coming out with more clarification of that, since it obviously has generated a number of questions about at that five-day period, should you or should you not be testing people? There will be further clarification of that coming very soon.”

“I’m not saying, yes, they should. I’m saying it’s something that absolutely should be considered, and I believe the CDC is going to clarify that,” said Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden. “I have been in favor of that. But then again, there’s a big picture of trying to do it in a way that is scientifically sound, but that also gets people back to work. The CDC is doing their very best in trying to get the right balance of getting people back, but doing it on a solid scientific basis.”


9:04 a.m. ET, January 2, 2022

Ireland records more Covid-19 cases over holiday period than all of 2020, health department says

From CNN's Peter Taggart and Manveena Suri

Ireland recorded more Covid-19 cases over the holiday period than all of 2020, according to the country’s department of health.

More than 120,000 people tested positive between Christmas and New Year compared to a total of 91,779 cases recorded in 2020.

The Department of Health reported 17,071 new infections on Sunday. The number of people admitted to the hospital rose to 717, with 87 in intensive care units.

On Saturday, Ireland recorded 23,281 cases, the highest daily total since the start of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, figures for the seven days leading up to Dec. 27 showed Northern Ireland had the highest infection rate in the UK. Northern Ireland will release new figures on Tuesday.

8:10 a.m. ET, January 2, 2022

Lionel Messi tests positive for Covid-19, team says

Lionel Messi warms up before a game on December 12, in Paris, France.
Lionel Messi warms up before a game on December 12, in Paris, France. (Catherine Steenkeste/Getty Images)

Lionel Messi is one of four Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) players to have tested positive for Covid-19, the club said in a statement on Sunday.

The other three players are Juan Bernat, Sergio Rico and Nathan Bitumazala.

All players are "in isolation and are subject to the appropriate health protocol," the ​team said.

PSG is scheduled to face Vannes Monday in the French Cup's round of 32.

7:53 a.m. ET, January 2, 2022

At least 5 metro Atlanta school systems move to virtual learning coming out of the holiday break

From CNN's Alta Spells

At least five metro Atlanta school districts will begin with remote learning during the first week of the new year, as students prepare to return to school following the holiday break amid rising numbers of Covid-19 cases in the area.  

Students in Clayton County Public Schools will return to school virtually on Wednesday, with "independent virtual learning at home" going through Jan. 7, according to a press release from the school system. Students and staff will return to face-to-face learning on Jan. 10. 

On Tuesday, students attending Rockdale County Public Schools will begin the new year in "a virtual/remote learning environment," according to a message from the superintendent posted on the district's website. Virtual learning continues through Jan. 7. In-person learning begins on Jan. 10, for students and teachers. 

On Saturday: Atlanta Public Schools, as well as neighboring Fulton and DeKalb County Schools announced a return to virtual learning for their first week of classes as well.

All five of these Atlanta-area school districts aim to return to in-person learning on Jan. 10.