December 27 coronavirus pandemic and Omicron variant news

By Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Tara John, Aditi Sangal, Mike Hayes, Melissa Macaya and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 0601 GMT (1401 HKT) December 28, 2021
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8:48 a.m. ET, December 27, 2021

New York City is implementing its latest vaccine mandate today. Here are key things to know.

From CNN's Jason Hanna and Aya Elamroussi

New York City's vaccine mandate for the private sector is set to go into effect Monday, as case numbers across the wider state soared over the Christmas period.

New York state broke a single-day record, with 49,708 new Covid-19 cases on Christmas Eve, according to data released on Sunday by Gov. Kathy Hochul's office.

As we come home from holiday gatherings, it is as important as ever to take precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19 this season," Hochul said in a statement. "The vaccine is the best tool we have to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe as we head into the new year."

The highly contagious Omicron variant was a factor in New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's decision to implement a vaccine mandate for private sector employees, he said earlier this month. The updated rules require workers to have at least one vaccination dose by Monday and will not allow employees to opt out of vaccination through regular testing.

Children aged 5 to 11 in New York City are now also required to show proof of at least one shot before being allowed access to indoor dining, fitness or entertainment, and adults will be required to show proof of two vaccinations for those areas.

Read the full story here.

8:22 a.m. ET, December 27, 2021

Shorter isolation period "under consideration," Fauci says

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

A shortened quarantine or isolation period for people who have been infected with or exposed to Covid-19 is being considered in the US by public health decision-makers, Dr. Anthony Fauci, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director, told CNN Monday.

“Certainly we’re considering it — going beyond just health care workers,” Fauci he said.

“The idea about cutting down the period of quarantine for people who've been exposed, and perhaps the period of isolation for people who have been infected, is something that is under, I would say, serious consideration,” Fauci said Monday.

Last week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance for health care workers with Covid-19 who show no symptoms or have mild symptoms to say they can return to work after seven days if they test negative for infection at that point.

The CDC's previous guidance was for anyone with Covid-19 to self-isolate at home for 10 full days. 

People who are exposed to Covid-19 but who have not tested positive are advise to quarantine for 14 days.

People who test positive for Covid-19 are advised to isolate for 10 full days

8:18 a.m. ET, December 27, 2021

Fauci: "I would stay away from" larger New Year's Eve parties

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

People should avoid large New Year’s Eve gatherings where they don’t know the vaccination status of guests, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday. 

Small gatherings of vaccinated family or close friends will be safe, but not larger, mixed gatherings, Fauci told CNN’s New Day.

“I would stay away from that,” Fauci, who is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins.

“When you are talking about a New Year's Eve party, where you have 30, 40, 50 people celebrating, you do not know the status of the vaccination — I would recommend strongly, stay away from that this year. There will be other years to do that, but not this year,” Fauci said.

8:37 a.m. ET, December 27, 2021

Some countries around the world are setting new Covid-19 case records as Omicron spreads

Intensive Care Unit of the North Hospital in Marseille, France on Friday.
Intensive Care Unit of the North Hospital in Marseille, France on Friday. (Florian Escoffier/Abaca/Sipa/AP)

The Omicron coronavirus variant has been causing Covid-19 cases to rise sharply, setting new records over the holiday weekend in countries around the world. Here's a roundup of where things stand in some nations:

Australia:

Australia registered at least 10,186 new Covid-19 cases on Monday. It's the first time the number of new cases across the country has surpassed 10,000.

This comes amid an “unprecedented Covid-testing activity,” according to testing facility SydPath.

The states of New South Wales and Victoria account for more than 8,000 of those cases. New South Wales, home to Sydney, recorded 6,324 cases from 97,241 tests on Monday morning.

The state of Queensland has recorded 589 new daily Covid-19 cases, its highest number since the start of the pandemic. Queensland’s Chief Health Officer John Gerrard said that he was expecting the case numbers “to grow very substantially” over the course of the next few weeks.

France:

France reported a record-breaking 104,611 Covid-19 cases on Saturday, the country's highest daily number since the pandemic began. It was also the first time that case numbers broke the 100,000 threshold in the country, according to health ministry data.

United Kingdom:

The UK reported at least 122,186 new Covid-19 cases on Friday, the highest daily number since start of the pandemic, according to government data.

The Health Security Agency also noted that government figures would not be updated on Christmas Day or Boxing Day, with the next coronavirus data update expected on Monday, Dec. 27. 

Italy:

Italy reported its third consecutive day of record-breaking new Covid-19 cases on Saturday, according to health ministry data.

With at least 54,762 cases, the country saw its highest daily figure since the pandemic began. That's up from Friday’s record of 50,599, which itself had surpassed the previous day’s record of 44,595 cases.

The country also reported a further 144 deaths and 33 more patients in intensive care units on Saturday.

8:11 a.m. ET, December 27, 2021

US daily Covid-19 case rates surpassed Delta’s surge, but hospitalizations remain relatively low

From CNN's Aya Elamroussi

As the Omicron coronavirus variant continues to spread across the US, the rate of daily Covid-19 cases detected has eclipsed those fueled by the Delta variant over the summer.

However, hospitalization numbers remain relatively lower than what was seen during peaks earlier this year.

Yet the situation may worsen for the tens of millions of unvaccinated Americans, who remain at higher risk for complications and death.

More than 69,000 Americans were hospitalized with Covid-19 on Christmas Eve, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services. An increase of around 2% from last week, the figure remains below peak hospitalizations during the Delta surge and is half of the record-high from January.

But experts note that hospitalization figures tend to lag with time as some illnesses worsen, and researchers are still working to determine whether Omicron is less likely to cause severe illness.

Health and government officials have been warning that the Omicron variant threatens to overwhelm hospitals and health care workers.

Twelve states have seen at least a 10% uptick in Covid-19 hospitalizations over the past week compared to the previous, HHS data shows. That's happening against the backdrop of a 48% increase in Covid-19 cases from last week, bringing the US average for new daily cases to 182,682, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Case numbers surpassing the summer surge is a sobering indication of Omicron's spread, as it quickly became the most prevalent variant in the US this week.

And as Covid-19 testing shortages led to long lines in many metro areas before Christmas, some pockets of the country are reporting surges.

Covid-19 cases in Los Angeles County have nearly tripled in the last week, reaching 9,998 new cases for its about 10 million residents, public health data shows. Hospitalizations, however, have remained steady.

New York state broke its own daily record of Covid-19 cases on Friday, when it reported 44,431 new cases -- a 14% increase from Thursday.

"This is not a surprise," New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said. "This is a very, very contagious variant."

Hospitalizations in the state are also rising — but at a lower rate. Friday data showed that 4,744 New Yorkers were receiving Covid-19 treatment at hospitals, marking an uptick of 4.6% from Thursday.

7:57 a.m. ET, December 27, 2021

The pandemic pushed nearly 100 million people into poverty around the world

From CNN's Michelle Toh

Food distribution during the Christmas Eve Supper for the homeless and poor during the coronavirus pandemic at the Main Square in Krakow, Poland on December 19.
Food distribution during the Christmas Eve Supper for the homeless and poor during the coronavirus pandemic at the Main Square in Krakow, Poland on December 19. (Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto/Getty Images)

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit last spring, garment workers Dipali and Pradip Roy lost their jobs in Dhaka, Bangladesh, due to mass layoffs at their factory. Living in poverty, Dipali Roy was also pregnant and couldn't find enough food to eat more than one meal on some days.

The World Bank estimates that 97 million people across the globe fell into poverty due to the pandemic in 2020, living on less than $2 a day. Additionally, 2020 led to a historic setback in the fight against global poverty, with the number of the world's poorest rising for the first time in over 20 years, according to the World Bank.

While these tens of millions of people were being pushed into destitution, the ultra-rich became wealthier. Last year, billionaires enjoyed the highest boost to their share of wealth on record, according to the World Inequality Lab.

Like countless other migrants, the Roys were forced to move home to the countryside to cut down on expenses, look for new ways to earn and struggle to adjust.

Their efforts to recover and several governments' efforts to rebuild will meet challenges like vaccine equity, and advocates around the world are calling for attention to the issue.

Read the full story here.

7:44 a.m. ET, December 27, 2021

Oman bans people who are not fully vaccinated from entering the workplace

From CNN's Jake Kwon in Seoul

Oman will require residents to have two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to enter the workplace.

"Those who have not received two doses of vaccines approved in the Sultanate of Oman shall not be allowed to enter their workplaces," according to a Twitter post by the Omani government's Covid-19 task force.

At least 90% of Oman residents have received two doses of the vaccine, said the task force.

"Vaccination is available free of charge to citizens and residents; there are no excuses for not taking the vaccination," it said. The decision would remain in effect until January 31, "if the situation does not change for the worse," it added.

9:16 a.m. ET, December 27, 2021

Lufthansa to cancel 10% of its winter flight schedule, says CEO

From CNN’s Chris Liakos

German airline group Lufthansa is canceling 10% of its winter flight schedule as the pandemic continues to hit the aviation industry.

In an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung last week, Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said that due to “a sharp drop in bookings” the airline will have to cancel 33,000 flights from mid-January to February 2022 or 10% of the group’s winter flight schedule.

Spohr’s comments were confirmed to CNN by Lufthansa's press office.

This comes as thousands of flights were canceled globally over the Christmas weekend as airline staff and crew called in sick.

7:23 a.m. ET, December 27, 2021

Protest against Covid measures turn violent in Germany

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz in Sainte Maxime, France

German police in the Bavarian city of Schweinfurt used batons and pepper spray at protesters demonstrating against Covid measures on Sunday evening.

Several hundred protesters had gathered at the rally on Sunday, according to a tweet by Bavarian police, which said the protest was not authorized. The police said in a Monday press release that they were "confronted with a heated, partly hostile atmosphere."

A 4-year-old child at the demonstration had to be treated for pepper spray exposure by emergency services, police said. The child’s mother was charged after police warned protesters in the run-up to the event not to bring children to the demonstration. 

Eight police officers were injured after being punched and kicked, according to the police. Eight people have been detained, the press release said.

This comes days before stricter rules on socializing begin Tuesday, when only 10 people can gather if vaccinated or recovered from Covid. Those who are unvaccinated can meet in groups of two. 

Germany has struggled with anti-Covid vaccination sentiment, which has coincided with an uptick in violent protests against coronavirus measures in recent weeks. Some 70.8% of the country is fully inoculated but the vaccination rate has slowed.