January 6 coronavirus pandemic and Omicron variant news

TOPSHOT - A health worker takes a nasal swab sample at a COVID-19 testing site at St. John's Well Child and Family Center, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, July 24, 2020, in Los Angeles, California. - The coronavirus pandemic hit grim new milestones July 23, with cases topping four million in the United States and three million in Europe as fresh spikes from Belgium to Tokyo to Melbourne forced new restrictions on citizens. (Photo by VALERIE MACON / AFP) (Photo by VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images)
How is Omicron different? Here's what you need to know
02:50 - Source: CNN

What we covered here

  • Global Covid-19 cases “increased sharply,” the World Health Organization said in its weekly epidemiological update with the Americas region showing the largest jump.
  • Israel plans to remove all countries – including the US, UK and the United Arab Emirates – from its “red” no-fly list as domestic Covid-19 infections hit a new record.
  • Meanwhile, airlines continue to cancel and delay flights by the thousands as their operations struggle with workers calling out sick with coronavirus. 

Our live coverage has of the pandemic has moved here.

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In 4 US states, less than half of the population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, CDC data shows

Here’s the latest data on vaccination efforts in the US, published Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Fully vaccinated: 62.4% of the total US population (all ages), about 207 million people
  • In four states, less than half of the population is fully vaccinated: Alabama, Idaho, Mississippi and Wyoming
  • In five states, at least three-quarters of the population is fully vaccinated: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont
  • Not vaccinated: at least 21.3% of the eligible population (age 5+) has not received any dose of Covid-19 vaccine, at least 66 million people
  • Current pace of vaccinations (7-day average): 1,072,127 doses are being administered each day 
  • Most doses being administered – about 597,000 – are booster doses.
  • Only about 304,000 people are initiating vaccination each day.
  • About 73 million people have received a booster dose 
  • About 23% of the total US population is now fully vaccinated and boosted
  • The pace of booster dose administration ticked up amid the Omicron variant’s early initial spread but has since trailed off. 

Note: CDC data on Covid-19 vaccinations are estimates. The agency notes that data on people who are fully vaccinated and those with a booster dose may be underestimated, while data on people with at least one dose may be overestimated. 

Chicago public school classes canceled for third day as clash over Covid-19 safety concerns continues

A sign is displayed on the front of the headquarters for Chicago Public Schools on January 5, in Chicago.

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) informed parents Thursday evening that classes will be canceled again on Friday for the third consecutive day as the district and Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement. 

“CPS classes are cancelled on Friday, Jan. 7. In-person learning and activities may be available at a small number of schools tomorrow. Please do not plan on sending your child to school unless you hear from your child’s principal,” the district said in the message to parents.

Some context: The decision comes as CPS, the third-largest school district in the country, canceled classes for more than 340,000 students Wednesday and Thursday after the Chicago Teachers Union voted Tuesday night to refuse to show up for in-person work, citing concerns over Covid-19 safety.

National Guard deployed again to help New Hampshire hospitals deal with Covid-19 

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu announced the deployment of another 100 National Guard members to help the state’s healthcare system amid a rise in Covid-19 cases.  

About 30 guard members will be deployed to long term care facilities and 70 will be sent to hospitals that provide critical care, Sununu said on Thursday at a Covid-19 news briefing.

Thursday’s decision comes as new daily cases over the past seven days averaged 1,766 new infections, a 55% increase compared to the previous seven-day period, according to data obtained by the state’s health department. 

In early December: Sununu announced that 70 National Guard members would be deployed to help hospitals where the need is most severe, assisting with tasks that will allow for a smoother operation. 

Lousiana sets a new record number of daily Covid-19 cases for the state

Louisiana reported at least 14,077 Covid-19 cases in the state Thursday, a record number of cases in a 24-hour period, Gov. John Bel Edwards said at a news conference. 

Louisiana State Health officer and Medical Director Dr. Joseph Kanter said that to avoid further burdening hospitals, don’t go to the emergency room for Covid-19 testing.

He acknowledged that take-home tests can be difficult to obtain in the state, but said PCR testing centers are open and available, but if someone has symptoms and can’t get a test, they should assume they have Covid-19.

“If someone is looking for an antigen test, a take-home test, and they can’t find it, but they have symptoms, in the context of the surge we’re in right now, they should just assume that they have Covid and isolate accordingly,” Kanter said. “When you’re in a surge like we are right now and Covid is everywhere- and it is everywhere right now- if you have trouble getting a test, a take-home test particularly, and you do have symptoms, the prudent thing to do is just assume you have Covid and isolate away from other people. That’s the safest thing to do right now.”

Some context: There are 1,412 people hospitalized across the state of Louisiana with Covid-19, an increase of 125 since Wednesday, the governor said.

“The percentage of emergency department visits related to Covid-like illness remains at an all-time high. The average daily incidence of Covid has exceeded its Delta surge peak across the state of Louisiana,” the governor said. “What is not captured on our Covid dashboard currently are reinfections, which we are seeing more of because of the Omicron variant than we saw before.”

Of those hospitalized with Covid-19, 76% of them are not vaccinated, Kanter said at the news conference.

CDC to hold independent Covid-19 briefing Friday

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will hold a briefing Friday to give updates on the Covid-19 pandemic.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky is scheduled to speak at 11 a.m. ET.

It’s been a few months since the agency had held a briefing like this: The CDC usually participates in joint briefings with officials from the White House or the National Institutes of Health, such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Its last independent Covid-19 briefing was July 27, 2021.

The agency has faced renewed criticism this month over confusion surrounding its guidelines on testing and isolation for people who test positive for Covid-19.

Omicron makes up around 90% of Covid-19 cases in Maryland, officials say

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, right, speaks during a briefing in Laurel, Maryland, on January 6.

Sample test results confirm that Omicron makes up approximately 90% of the Covid-19 cases that health officials are seeing surge throughout the state, according to state officials.

“Every 24 hours as part of our aggressive sequencing program, we are analyzing more samples to detect the Omicron variant, which as of today, we now estimate accounts for approximately 90% of all of our lab-confirmed cases in the state as well as 90% of all hospitalized cases,” Gov. Larry Hogan said in a briefing Thursday.

Hogan, who spoke from a new testing site at the University of Maryland Laurel Medical Center, announced the launch of 20 additional testing locations across the state that will be set up outside hospitals in an effort to divert people from going to emergency rooms for Covid-19 tests.

According to Hogan, officials are already seeing dramatic drops in emergency room visits in hospitals where testing sites are set up outside.

Hospitals across the state are seeing a rapid rise in patients arriving with Covid-19, according to president and CEO of the University of Maryland Medical System Dr. Mohan Suntha, who also spoke at the briefing.

Suntha said that in a span of one month, Covid-19 patients across the medical system rose from 200 to 800.

“Seventy-five percent of the patients who are currently admitted in our hospitals with Covid-19 across the medical system are unvaccinated,” he said.

Less than 5% of all patients who are hospitalized with Covid-19 are vaccinated and boosted, according to Suntha. 

Some context: Hogan declared a 30-day state of emergency earlier this week, mobilizing 1,000 members of the National Guard to assist state and local health officials with the state’s emergency pandemic response and to provide operational support to help open and operate testing sites.

Peru tightens Covid-19 restrictions in 25 provinces

People stand in line to wait for PCR tests in Lima, Peru, on Wednesday, January 5.

Peru raised its coronavirus pandemic alert level to high and will implement new restrictions starting Friday, including a curfew in 25 provinces, according to state news agency Andina.  

Peru detected its first four cases of the Omicron variant in the country on Dec.19 and is dealing with a “third wave” of infections, state media said.

The new restrictions include a curfew from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. local time and new capacity limits for businesses and commercial activities. 

In addition to Lima and Callao, the provinces that will move to the high alert level are Ica, Pisco, Cusco, Cajamarca, Jaén, Piura, Sullana, Sechura, Talara, Trujillo, Pacasmayo, Chiclayo, Santa, Puno, Huaura, Bagua, Chachapoyas, Tacna, Huancayo, Satipo, Mariscal Nieto, Ilo, and Tumbes, Andina reported.

White House expects to share details on Covid-19 testing contracts within the next day

The White House expects to share details over the next day about contracts between the federal government and manufacturers to produce the 500 million rapid Covid-19 tests President Biden had said Americans would be able to order for free.

“I expect we’ll have more in the next 24 hours. As soon as we do, and as soon as there are more details to report we will let you all know,” press secretary Jen Psaki said.

Some background: Biden announced last month a plan to order half-a-billion at-home rapid tests that Americans could order online for free. The White House said they would be available in January, though didn’t specify an exact date.

Psaki said the administration would “absolutely” be able to meet the January goal, saying that efforts to stand up the program had been ongoing.

“A lot of these things are happening simultaneously,” she said, noting the request for proposals to companies had closed this week and the contracting process was underway.

“We don’t want to put the website up before we know we can provide, even through pre-orders, tests as people want them,” she said.

1% of Mayo Clinic employees fired for not complying with Covid-19 vaccination program

The Mayo Clinic said 1% of its employees have been terminated for not complying with its required Covid-19 vaccination program. 

The health system said “the needs of the patient come first” in a statement emailed to CNN.

“This is a time when Mayo Clinic must stand firmly behind the evidence supporting the efficacy and safety of COVID-19 vaccines to help protect the health and safety of our patients, workforce, visitors, and communities,” it said in the statement. 

The Mayo Clinic has 73,000 employees, according to its website

Complying with the program means receiving at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and not being overdue for a second dose if taking the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine. Nearly 99% of employees met the program’s Jan. 3 deadline at all the Mayo Clinic’s locations, according to the statement. 

“While Mayo Clinic is saddened to lose valuable employees, we need to take all steps necessary to keep our patients, workforce, visitors, and communities safe. If individuals released from employment choose to get vaccinated at a later date, the opportunity exists for them to apply and return to Mayo Clinic for future job openings,” the statement said. 

The Mayo Clinic has campuses in Rochester, Minnesota; Scottsdale and Phoenix, Arizona; and Jacksonville, Florida, as well as dozens of locations in other states, according to its website.

More than 800 Los Angeles fire and police tested positive for Covid-19

The city of Los Angeles is safe, assured Mayor Eric Garcetti, despite Covid-19 infections hitting over 800 fire and police department staff.

“I’m here today with a clear message when it comes to public safety,” said Garcetti outside of a downtown L.A. fire station. “Both LAPD and LAFD have maintained staffing levels that are needed to keep Angelenos safe and we have maintained staffing levels to make sure you, your family, our communities are safe. ”

Garcetti announced 505 police officers and 299 fire department sworn and civilian employees are in quarantine at home, as of Wednesday. “These are big numbers, numbers that are reflecting the staffing challenges that we all face,” said Garcetti. 

He says five out of six members in both departments are fully vaccinated, while about 82% of workers citywide are in compliance with the mandate, requiring full vaccination by mid-December. Garcetti has authorized overtime funds to cover police and fire staffing in addition to enhancing recruiting to fill out staffing levels. 

“Our continued response time will see some delay in routine calls,” said LAPD Chief Michel Moore but stressed 911 services are fully staffed. 

LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas said the number of firefighters off-duty due to the virus is “the highest we’ve seen at any one time,” noting that a few weeks ago, it was 24. Adequate daily staffing for the fire department is a combination of those on assigned shifts, voluntary overtime, and those who are force hired – employees notified as they are headed home for the day that they need to continue to work. “Our response time have been impacted by our lack of staffing due to Covid,” said Terrazas. Critical life support calls increased by 13-seconds from 2020-2021 while structure fire calls have increased by six-seconds, he said. 

During the news conference, a man in the crowd repeatedly interrupted speakers, calling attention to the shooting death of a teen in a Burlington department store in late December. Garcetti, on his 100th Covid address to the city, switched topics and said he’s been laser-focused on the investigation into the LAPD’s fatal shooting of Valentina Orellana-Peralta. He promised “maximum transparency, sensitivity, and accountability.” 

“We are sworn to protect and serve and there is no greater circumstance than to lose an innocent victim and to lose a child while we’re trying to come to the aid of the very people in that store, in this crisis moment, it is just unimaginable,” said Moore heavily. Like the mayor, he reiterated transparency and commitment to the investigation. Moore said the attorney general’s office has full access to the police department’s investigation. 

Italy surpasses 200,000 Covid-19 cases in a single day for the first time

Cars line up at a rapid swab testing drive-through site in Rome on Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021.

Italy has recorded more than 200,000 new daily Covid-19 cases for the first time since the start of the pandemic, according to official data.  

The country’s health ministry reported at least 219,441 new daily Covid-19 cases on Thursday. There were 198 Covid-19 related deaths reported, bringing the overall deaths to at least 138,474.

The Italian government made Covid-19 vaccination mandatory for anyone over 50 years old on Wednesday.

Unvaccinated workers who are 50 years old or older risk being fined between 600 and 1,500 euros under Italy’s new coronavirus decree, a government source told CNN Thursday. 

Former Biden health advisers say the US needs to change its Covid-19 strategy to face a "new normal"

People wait in line to get tested for COVID-19 in Times Square, New York, on Dec. 20, 2021.

Former health advisers to President Biden say the US strategy on the Covid-19 pandemic needs to be updated to face a “new normal” of living with the virus, rather than aiming to eliminate it.

In three pieces published in the medical journal JAMA on Thursday, six former Biden advisers proposed a new plan and detailed strategies for testing, mitigation, vaccines and treatments.

“Without a strategic plan for the ‘new normal’ with endemic COVID-19, more people in the US will unnecessarily experience morbidity and mortality, health inequities will widen, and trillions will be lost from the US economy,” wrote Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, Michael Osterholm and Dr. Celine Gounder, who had been appointed to Biden’s transition Covid-19 advisory board in 2020.

They push for modernized data infrastructure to provide real-time information, a bolstered public health workforce, more and empowered school nurses and moves to rebuild trust in public health institutions. Substantial resources will be needed to “build and sustain an effective public health infrastructure,” they write.

In the article on testing, surveillance and mitigation strategies, Emanuel, David Michaels and Rick Bright called the initial response to the virus “seriously flawed.” The authors called for low-cost and accessible testing with immediate advice when someone receives a positive results; improved air and wastewater surveillance and genomic sequencing; and government involvement in mitigation, including paid sick leave for all US workers and a voucher program for accessing N95 and KN95 masks.

In another piece, Dr. Luciana Borio, Bright and Emanuel call for vaccine mandates, variant-specific vaccines and accelerated efforts to develop a universal coronavirus vaccines, as well as rapid development of effective oral antivirals. “Integral to achieving and sustaining this ‘new normal’ are both faster development and more efficient deployment of vaccines and therapeutics,” they write.

Some of the advisers have spoken up in the past about the Biden administration’s Covid-19 response, including in February, when four advisers and other experts urged mandates around N95 masks in a memo to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Cameroon launches massive Covid-19 operation ahead of Africa Cup of Nations 

A worker sits at his desk while waiting for people to be vaccinated against Covid-19 at a vaccination center at the National Museum in Yaounde, Cameroon, on November 29, 2021.

Cameroonian authorities have launched a massive testing and vaccination operation against Covid-19 ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) soccer finals starting Sunday.

Hundreds of vaccination points have been opened in all six cities hosting the competition, in line with requirements by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).

CAF will require supporters to show proof of vaccination in addition to a negative Covid-19 test before they can enter stadiums.

“Supporters may only enter stadiums to attend the Africa Cup of Nations matches in Cameroon if they are fully vaccinated and are able to show a negative PCR test result that is no older than 72 hours or a negative antigen test result no older than 24 hours,” CAF said in a release.

Cameroon’s Health Minister Manaouda Malachie reiterated CAF’s position Wednesday, urging locals to get vaccinated and be tested for the virus ahead of the competition.

Cameroon is struggling to contain a burgeoning Covid-19 crisis with vaccine hesitancy still rampant among residents. Only 4.6% of the country’s population has been fully vaccinated against the virus, according to the last published figures.

There is "no particular risk" in proceeding with Winter Olympics, WHO leader says

Authority personnel wearing a protective suit watches as a media bus stands by for people arriving at the Beijing Capital International Airport on Wednesday, January 5.

Given the prevention measures put into place by China for the upcoming Winter Olympics, the World Health Organization does not expect increased Covid-19 transmission associated with the games, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, said Thursday. 

“As with the Summer Games, we’ve worked with the Chinese authorities through the International Olympic Committee in order to provide technical advice on the safe operation of the Winter Games,” Ryan said during a briefing. 

“They have released a series of different playbooks, we continue to review those playbooks with the IOC. I’m confident that given the information we have that the measures that are in place for the games are very strict and very strong and we don’t at this point see any increased risk of disease transmission in that context.”

Ryan said the country has seen “pretty large” outbreaks of Covid-19 in recent weeks, but the government has been “taking a very strong approach to dealing with those outbreaks.” 

“Certainly at this stage, given the arrangements that have been put in place for the athletes and by the organizers, we don’t perceive that there’s any particular extra risk in hosting or running the games, but obviously we will keep all of the measures that are being put in place under constant review.”

The Winter Olympics are set to begin in Beijing on Feb. 4.

Airlines cancel another 1,600 flights, citing worker coronavirus cases

Unclaimed baggage starts to pile up outside the Southwest Airlines baggage claim at Denver International Airport on Monday, January 3.

Airlines continue to cancel and delay flights by the thousands as their operations struggle with workers calling out sick with coronavirus.

Carriers have canceled more than 1,620 flights by Thursday afternoon and delayed more than 1,350 nationwide, according to flight tracking site FlightAware.

On Wednesday, US airlines canceled a total 1,790 flights and delayed another 6,097 flights.

Southwest Airlines has canceled 562 flights, 18 percent of its total schedule, as of noon Thursday, more than any US carrier. 

United Airlines has canceled 227 flights, 11 percent of its Thursday schedule. United is now offering pilots who pick up extra trips up to three times their normal pay through the end of the month.

Israel will remove all countries from its "red" no-fly list

Planes sit on the tarmac at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport in Lod, east of Tel Aviv, on December 21, 2021.

Israel plans to remove all countries – including the US, UK and the United Arab Emirates – from its “red” no-fly list as domestic Covid-19 infections hit a new record. 

Starting at midnight local time, Israelis will be free to travel to these countries without special permission. Vaccinated or recovering returnees will only need to self-isolate until they receive a negative PCR test or 24 hours have passed. Unvaccinated returnees will need to take a PCR test when they arrive and then present a second negative result after a week of self-isolation. Starting on Sunday, non-Israelis will again be allowed to enter the country as long as they’re vaccinated. 

“The government takes the economic consideration into account in every action. In order to reduce the infection rate, there needs to be very tough steps which there is no certainty that the government and the public are able to take,” Israel’s Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash told Israel radio Kan 11.

On Wednesday, the country had a record 16,115 new Covid-19 cases. On Monday, Israel began its rollout of a fourth vaccine dose, or second booster, to all medical workers and people over 60.

Global Covid-19 cases "increased sharply," WHO says in weekly update

Cars line up at a COVID-19 testing site at the South Orange Youth Sports Complex on December 30, 2021, in Orlando.

Global Covid-19 cases “increased sharply by 71%,” from Dec. 27 to Jan. 2 compared with the week before, the World Health Organization said in its weekly epidemiological update published on Thursday.

This sharp increase follows gradual increases since October. 

Just under 9.5 million new cases were reported, WHO said, with increases in all regions. 

Here’s what the data shows:

The Americas region was highest with a 100% increase. A 78% increase was reported in the Southeast Asia region, 65% in the European region, 40% in the Eastern Mediterranean, 38% in the Western Pacific and 7% in the African region.

The United States reported the highest number of new cases, followed by the United Kingdom, France, Spain and Italy. 

As of Jan. 2, there have been nearly 289 million cases reported globally. 

There was a 10% decrease in the number of new deaths compared with the week before, with over 41,000 deaths being reported. 

Only one region, the African region, reported an increase of 22% in the number of new deaths. Decreases of 18% in the Americas, 10% in the Western Pacific region, 9% in the Southeast Asia region, 7% in the Eastern Mediterranean region and 6% in the European region were reported. 

Just over 5.4 million deaths have been reported across the world as of Jan. 2. 

Djokovic's family speaks out after Australia refuses tennis champ entry over Covid-19 rules

The family of Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic attend a rally in front of Serbia's National Assembly on Thursday, January 6, in Belgrade, Serbia.

The family of Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic claim the Australian authorities took away all his belongings after revoking his visa to enter the country on Wednesday. 

The tennis player’s brother Drodje Djokovic told journalists during a news conference in Belgrade Thursday that the athlete “hasn’t broken a single rule or law of the federal government of Australia.” 

Djokovic’s brother claimed that other tennis players had the “same document” as him, yet “he’s the only one detained at the border and denied entry.”

He went on to describe the Australian authority’s treatment of his brother as a “serious diplomatic breach,” recounting how communication was abruptly severed between the player and his family.  

“In the first 45 minutes I think, he was communicating to the family and team, and that abruptly stopped. He had no contact whatsoever as his phone had been taken away from him for three and a half hours,” according to Drodje Djokovic.

Djokovic’s phone was eventually returned and he was taken into another isolation room, he added. 

After his visa was revoked, the tennis player was taken through Melbourne Airport’s metal detectors and all his belongings and suitcases were taken away from, according to his brother. 

“His wallet and change of clothes were taken away from him. He was taken to the migrant hotel, to a dirty room and was told that all his belongings will be given back to him on his departure to Europe,” he said.

The latest update Djokovic’s family received stated that if Djokovic returns to Europe immediately, he will be banned from entering Australia for three years. “The court’s response to Novak’s complaint was that the Australian authorities mustn’t deport Novak before Monday,” his brother added. 

The family believe the tennis player wishes to stay in Australia and “seek justice” after “being treated like a criminal,” his brother continued.

His lawyers continue to work on the case to “set him free as he deserves to be,” his brother underlined.

Some background: Djokovic’s visa to enter Australia was canceled following an outcry over his controversial “medical exemption” from the country’s coronavirus vaccination rules.

Djokovic, the men’s tennis world no.1, hasn’t publicly revealed his vaccination status — but in a news conference on Thursday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he “didn’t have a valid medical exemption” to the vaccination requirement for all arrivals.

“Entry with a visa requires double vaccination or a medical exemption,” Morrison said. “I am advised that such an exemption was not in place, and as a result, he is subject to the same rules as everyone else.”

“There are many visas granted, if you have a visa and you’re double vaccinated, you’re very welcome to come here,” he added. “But if you’re not double vaccinated and you’re not an Australian resident or citizen, well, you can’t come.”

Austria imposes tougher Covid-19 measures to curb the spread of Omicron 

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer presents the new COVID19- regulations at a press conference after a meeting of the federal government in Vienna, Austria, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022. The new regulations will come into force on Monday, Jan. 10, 2022.

Austria will impose tougher Covid-19 restrictions on its citizens and businesses in order to curb the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer announced Thursday.

”Omicron represents a very new challenge for us all here in Austria,” Nehammer said following a meeting between the Austrian government and its main advisory body on the pandemic, the COVID-Crisis-Coordination (GECKO). “We need to do everything we can possibly do together to prevent another lockdown.”

Austrian Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein outlined the stricter rules that will be enforced starting Saturday. They include:

  • A compulsory wearing of European standard FFP2 (filtering face piece) masks outdoors if a distance of more than two meters is not possible.
  • Whenever possible, people should work from home.
  • Proof of vaccination or recovery to enter trade businesses, restaurants and cafes – supermarkets excluded – will apply upon entering these facilities. If businesses are not adhering to those control measures, they will be closed down.
  • Austria will also shorten quarantine times to five days, require people to wear masks outdoors when in crowds and limit the validity of vaccine certificates to six months.  

Some background: Omicron became the dominant variant in Austria on Monday, which has led to a sharp increase in infection rates. On Thursday, Austria reported 8,263 new Covid-19 cases – nearly three times above the daily average number of infections last week – according to data from the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES).

The Austrian chancellor said that he expects infections rates to rise sharply in the next few days and weeks, with 17,000 new cases per day by next week and over 20,000 new daily cases forecast for the week after next.

How Novak Djokovic's mother reacted after his visa was canceled after outcry over Covid-19 rule exemption

A general view of the Park Hotel in Carlton on January 06, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. It is believed the Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic was asked to quarantine in the Hotel over night. Djokovic arrived in Melbourne to play in the upcoming Australian Open and was denied entry to Australia due to his inability to meet Australian entry requirements.

Novak Djokovic’s mother told reporters her son is being “treated like a prisoner” by Australian authorities after the country canceled his visa following an outcry over his controversial “medical exemption” from the country’s coronavirus vaccination rules.

In a news conference, Dijana Djokovic said she had spoken briefly with her son on Thursday, adding that he told her he couldn’t sleep.

“They are keeping him as a prisoner. It’s just not fair. It’s not human,” she said.

The tennis player is thought to have been transferred to the Park Hotel in Melbourne after having his visa to enter the country blocked, according to CNN affiliates Seven Network and Nine News.

The hotel — previously used by the Australian government as a Covid-19 quarantine facility — is now being used as an Alternative Place of Detention (APOD) for refugees and asylum seekers.

“[The authorities] don’t want to give him any chance to move on to some better hotel or house that he already rented,” his mother continued.