Millions of people are facing travel disruption and increased Covid restrictions over Christmas, as the surging Omicron variant sees safety curbs tightened and flights cancelled, according to BBC.
Italy, Spain and Greece have made face masks compulsory outdoors again. Catalonia, in northern Spain, has imposed an overnight curfew, and the Netherlands is in a strict lockdown.
Record infections were tallied in the UK, France and Italy on Thursday. Meanwhile in the US, daily Omicron cases have risen beyond the peak of the recent Delta wave and hospitals are filling up across the country.
On Christmas Eve (Friday), US airlines said they were already suffering from staffing shortages due to flight crews testing positive or being forced to self-isolate.
United Airlines pulled about 150 flights scheduled for 24 December, according to the FlightAware website, citing the “nationwide spike in Omicron cases”.
Delta Airlines cancelled 90 flights, and Alaska Airlines scrapped a further 17 after some employees “may have been exposed to the virus”, AFP news agency reports.
In the UK, where strike action is expected to disrupt train travel on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has used his Christmas message to urge people to get a booster jab in line with the festive “spirit of neighbourliness”.
Many European countries are preparing to impose restrictions just after the festive period, including Germany which will restrict private gatherings to 10 people and close nightclubs from 28 December. Football matches will also be played behind closed doors.
Portugal has ordered bars and nightclubs to shut from 26 December and made working from home obligatory from that date until 9 January.