The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and Omicron variant

By Ivana Kottasová, Meg Wagner and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 8:07 a.m. ET, December 26, 2021
6 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
6:38 a.m. ET, December 25, 2021

Italy reports record number of new cases

From CNN's Livia Borghese in Rome

Italy reported a record-breaking 50,599 new Covid-19 cases on Friday, the highest daily figure since the pandemic began, according to health ministry data.

The count was more than 5,000 above Thursday's record 44,595 cases.

Research from Italy's Superior Health Institute published Thursday shows that the Omicron variant is "rapidly increasing" across the country.

The government has announced new restrictions aimed at curbing the latest outbreak.

It said it will close nightclubs and ban people from eating in public squares from December 30 to January 31.

The outdoor mask mandate returned on Friday. Masks are now mandatory outdoors for any public activity, with the exception of outdoor sports.

The more protective FFP2 masks will be required to enter stadiums, museums, cinemas, and theatres, as well as to travel on public transport, including local public transport. 

6:14 a.m. ET, December 25, 2021

US Navy ship to remain in port at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay after crew tests positive for Covid

From CNN's Barbara Starr

The USS Milwaukee, a combat ship, will remain in port at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay after some crew members tested positive for Covid-19.

The sailors with Covid are isolated onboard away from other crew members, according to a statement from the Navy. Some of those infected have exhibited mild symptoms.

The ship deploys with a total crew of just over 100, according to a Navy official.

The Navy said the crew is 100% immunized.

6:00 a.m. ET, December 25, 2021

China reports 87 locally transmitted Covid-19 cases

From CNN’s Yong Xiong in Seoul 

A citizen enters a subway station in Xi'an on December 21, 2021, two days before the lockdown started.
A citizen enters a subway station in Xi'an on December 21, 2021, two days before the lockdown started. Photo: Shao Rui/Xinhua via Getty Images

China reported a total of 91 locally transmitted Covid-19 cases on Friday, with 87 of them symptomatic and four aymptomatic.

The vast majority -- 75 cases -- were found in Xi’an, a city in the northwest China's Shaanxi Province, according to the National Health Commission (NHC).

A total of 330 cases have been reported in Xi’an since the latest outbreak of the coronavirus started there on December 9.

The city with 13 million residents went into strict lockdown on Thursday. All public venues and transportation, except for essential services like supermarkets and hospitals, are shut and one person from every household was allowed to go out for daily necessities every other day.

5:25 a.m. ET, December 25, 2021

Carnival cruise ship with "small number" of Covid-19 continues after two ports denied it entry

From CNN's Carma Hassan, Jason Hanna and Sharif Paget

A Carnival cruise ship that departed Miami and has "a small number" of people aboard who have tested positive for Covid-19, has been denied entry to ports at two Caribbean islands, the cruise line said.

The Carnival Freedom departed Miami on December 18 and stopped in Curacao on Tuesday. Its planned stops at the Caribbean islands of Bonaire on Wednesday and Aruba on Thursday were canceled.

Those stops were replaced by Friday's stop in the Dominican Republic, and the ship will return to Miami as planned on Sunday, the cruise line said.

The ship's entry into Curacao was also delayed due to the Covid-19 cases detected onboard.

Ashley Peterson, a passenger aboard on the cruise, told CNN the cruise line refused to inform her why the ship was delayed entry into Curacao. Later that day, she learned from a news report the delay was triggered by Covid-19 infections, she said. 

Peterson said it wasn't until the next day when the ship was denied entry into Bonaire that passengers were officially informed of the Covid-19 cases, and said she may have taken a flight back to North Carolina if she knew of the positive cases. 

When asked by CNN, Carnival Cruise Line did not address specific claims by Peterson.

Carnival and many other cruise lines require passengers to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, with some exceptions for children. 

5:09 a.m. ET, December 25, 2021

Covid causes travel chaos across the US

From CNN's Pete Muntean and Andy Rose

US airlines have been forced to cancel hundreds of flights on what is traditionally one of the busiest travel days of the year because of staff shortages caused by the Omicron variant.

Cancellations by both Delta Air Lines and United Airlines reached triple digits for the second straight day -- as of 12:30am ET on Christmas Day, Delta had cancelled 268 flights, while United had 196 cancellations, according to the tracking website FlightAware.

Overnight, JetBlue Airways became the third US airline to cancel more than 100 flights on Christmas Day.

The misery is set to continue. Delta said in a statement on Friday that “upwards of 150 cancels per day are expected both Saturday and Sunday.”

5:12 a.m. ET, December 25, 2021

You should upgrade your mask as the Omicron variant spreads

From CNN's Kristen Rogers

Experts say proper surgical masks, such as the one pictured here, offer much better protection against the Omicron variant.
Experts say proper surgical masks, such as the one pictured here, offer much better protection against the Omicron variant. Photo: Amazon

As the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant continues to spread, some experts say it's past time to reconsider your face mask options -- especially if you're still wearing the cloth variety.

"Cloth masks are little more than facial decorations. There's no place for them in light of Omicron," said CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.

"We need to be wearing at least a three-ply surgical mask," she said, which is also known as a disposable mask and can be found at most drugstores and some grocery and retail stores. "You can wear a cloth mask on top of that, but do not just wear a cloth mask alone."

Ideally, in crowded places, "you should be wearing a KN95 or N95 mask," which can be as inexpensive as a few dollars each, Wen added.

By having a better fit and certain materials -- such as polypropylene fibers -- acting as both mechanical and electrostatic barriers, these masks better prevent tiny particles from getting into your nose or mouth and must be fitted to your face to function properly.