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Latest Covid-19: Delta, United Airlines Cancel Hundreds of Christmas Eve Flights Across U.S. as Ecuador Declares Mandatory jabs & more

United Airlines and Delta Air Lines on Thursday (Dec. 23) announced they had already canceled over 200 Christmas Eve flights, as the Omicron variant takes a toll on its workforce.

Both airlines said they were working to contact passengers so they would not be stranded at airports.

“The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation. As a result, we’ve unfortunately had to cancel some flights and are notifying impacted customers in advance of them coming to the airport,” United said.

Delta said it has “exhausted all options and resources—including rerouting and substitutions of aircraft and crews to cover scheduled flying—before canceling around 90 flights for Friday.”

On Tuesday (Dec. 21), Delta Chief Executive Ed Bastian asked the CDC to cut quarantine guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals with COVID-19 in half, citing the impact on the carrier’s workforce. Bastian asked that the isolation period be cut to five days from the current 10.

That request was echoed by Airlines for America and JetBlue.

Ecuador Declares COVID-19 Vaccination Mandatory for Everyone Over 5 Years Old

Ecuador on Thursday (Dec. 23) became the first country to make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for children as young as five.

“In Ecuador, vaccination against COVID-19 is declared compulsory,” the health ministry said in a statement. “Compulsory vaccination applies to persons five years and older.”

COVID-19 vaccination is mandatory for adults in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Indonesia, Micronesia and New Caledonia, but not kids.

Nigeria Destroys 1 Million Donated COVID-19 Vaccines

Nigeria destroyed more than 1 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday (Dec. 22) after authorities said they could not be used before their expiration date.

Faisal Shuaib, head of Nigeria’s National Primary Health Care Development Agency, said health officials in Africa’s most populous country were left with little choice after receiving the donated doses that didn’t have much shelf life left.

“We had developed countries that procured these vaccines and hoarded them,” he said. “At the point they were about to expire, they offered them for donation.”

Last week Shuaib had announced that Nigeria would no longer accept such donations, though he did not specify publicly what officials considered too short a shelf life.

Only 2% of Nigeria’s 206 million people are fully vaccinated, yet the country boasts one of the lowest COVID-19 death counts in the world.

Major Airline CEO Calls for Unvaccinated “Idiots” to Be Excluded From Society

The CEO of Ryanair, Michael O’Leary, declared last week that anyone who remains unvaccinated should be completely cut off from society.

“If you’re not vaccinated, you shouldn’t be allowed in the hospital, you shouldn’t be allowed to fly, you shouldn’t be allowed on the London Underground, and you shouldn’t be allowed in the local supermarket or your pharmacy either,” the airline executive said.

“You can sit at home and you know, get your deliveries of medicines and food. But you should not, you know, go to work or go on public transport unless you have a vaccine certificate,” O’Leary clarified.

O’Leary said that making vaccines compulsory is “an infringement of your civil liberties,” but added that the way around it is “you simply make life so difficult. Or [make it that] there are lots of things that you can’t do unless you get vaccinated.”

Calling the unvaccinated “idiots,” the CEO stated “I don’t think that governments should permit those people who are not vaccinated to go and infect everybody else.”

“We recognize the rights of everybody to decide not to get vaccinated if you so want. If you personally object to vaccination, because it’s some huge government/big pharma conspiracy; apart from the fact that you would be plainly an idiot, we respect your right to be an idiot.”

COVID-19 Vaccine Passports in U.S. Spread to Chicago Suburbs

On Thursday (Dec. 23), Cook County officials announced that the entire county would implement a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine pass like the City of Chicago did just days prior.

The mandate for suburban Cook County takes effect the same day as Chicago—January 3, 2022—and will apply to patrons over the age of 5 for restaurants, bars, gyms, and many other indoor businesses.

The indoor establishments that will be required to ask for proof of COVID-19 vaccination status include anywhere else food and drink are served, according to a copy of the order from the Cook County Department of Public Health.

Washington DC to Require Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination to Enter Restaurants, Bars, Nightclubs, Theaters, Gyms, and More

People 12 and older will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter many indoor businesses in Washington DC starting next month under new rules announced by Mayor Muriel E. Bowser on Wednesday (Dec. 22).

Restaurants, bars, nightclubs, theaters and gyms are among the businesses covered by the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

The change comes two days after Bowser declared a state of emergency and announced a host of new restrictions to curb record-setting numbers of daily COVID-19 cases. After reinstating an indoor mask mandate, announcing a forthcoming COVID-19 vaccine requirement for government workers without a test-out option, and introducing at-home rapid antigen tests for residents, Bowser’s latest measure will require thousands of businesses to check that patrons are vaccinated.

Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio said the mandate will not apply to establishments where people normally pass through more quickly and keep their masks on, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, retail shops and museums. Religious congregations will also be exempt, and Bowser said she is considering an exemption for some fast-food businesses.

The U.S. Capitol joins a growing list of major cities to implement similar requirements, including New York, Los Angeles, Boston and Philadelphia.

Boston’s mayor announces medical apartheid to segregate the vaccinated from the unvaccinated.

Out of 34 Omicron Cases at Delhi Hospital, 33 Are Fully Vaccinated

All but one of the 34 patients with the Omicron variant treated at Delhi government’s Lok Nayak hospital were fully vaccinated, with at least two persons having received a booster shot, top officials told The Indian Express.

“So far, we have treated 34 persons with the new Omicron variant, 18 of whom have already been discharged. Except for one person, all others were vaccinated against COVID-19, meaning that the new variant is capable of infecting even those who have received their shots,” said Dr. Suresh Kumar, medical director of Lok Nayak.

All those confirmed to have Omicron had mild symptoms such as fever, sore throat and body ache. None of them was required to be put on oxygen or ventilator.

Roughly 40% of India’s population is estimated to be fully vaccinated.

Chile Announces Fourth Dose of COVID-19 Vaccine Coming Soon

The health authorities of Chile announced on Thursday (Dec. 23) that they will roll out a fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine beginning in February.

“As of the second half of February, we have budgeted to start with this fourth dose (…) Studies show that there is a drop in the rate of antibodies, but that there is an immune memory that can be reactivated with a new boost,” said the Chilean Minister of Health, Enrique Paris.

For the fourth dose, a “heterologous scheme” will be used, which consists of combining different COVID-19 vaccines and which has proven “to be successful,” Paris added.

Starting on January 1, everyone over 18 years of age will be required to receive the first booster shot (third dose) in order to use their COVID-19 vaccination passport.

North Carolina Police Chief Caught Telling Officers How to Get Fake COVID-19 Vaccine Cards

A North Carolina police chief was suspended on Tuesday (Dec. 21) for telling other officers how to get fake COVID-19 vaccine cards.

TJ Smith, the police chief of Oakboro, Stanly County, was placed on two weeks’ unpaid leave and six months’ probation following an investigation into his actions.

The investigation found that Smith had notified other police officers “to attend a ‘clinic’ where they would be able to obtain proof of COVID-19 vaccination cards without being vaccinated.”

The town manager warned that further violations could lead to dismissal.

UK Health Security Agency: Omicron-Infected Up to 70% Less Likely to Need Hospital Care Compared With Other Variants

People catching Omicron are 50% to 70% less likely to need hospital care compared with previous variants, a major new analysis concluded on Thursday (Dec. 23).

The UK Health Security Agency report shows people catching Omicron are:

● 31%-45% less likely to go to A&E
● 50%-70% less likely to be admitted to hospital

It also shows the vaccine’s ability to prevent Omicron infection starts to wane 10 weeks after a COVID-19 booster shot.

The report comes on the heels of data from South Africa, Denmark, England and Scotland which all pointed to reduced severity.

Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks Biden’s COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate for Federal Contractors

A federal judge on Wednesday (Dec. 22) granted Florida’s request for a preliminary injunction against the Biden administration’s order requiring federal contractors to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

“The extent of any procurement problem, past or future, attributable to COVID-19 is undemonstrated and is merely a hastily manufactured but unproven hypothesis about recent history and a contrived speculation about the future,” wrote U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday in Wednesday’s 38-page decision, which focused primarily on whether the Biden administration had proven the necessity of the mandate.

“Obviously, no massive extension and expansion of presidential power is necessary to cure a non-existent problem and certainly neither ‘good cause’ nor ‘urgent and compelling circumstances’ exists to justify summary disregard of the requirements of administrative law and rulemaking,” added the judge, who serves on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida

Major Hospitals in New York Region Have Stopped Using Monoclonal Antibody Treatment Because They’ve Run Out

Major hospitals in the New York region say they’ve stopped using monoclonal antibodies because they’ve run out, leaving doctors without a vital tool to treat COVID-19 patients.

Federal supply of the one monoclonal antibody treatment proven effective against Omicron is now “limited,” with more doses expected in January, a Health and Human Services spokesperson said.

New York University and Valley Health System in northern New Jersey notified doctors Sunday (Dec. 19) that they are suspending monoclonal antibody programs and will not offer the treatment until they receive more shipments from state and federal health agencies. The hospitals said it was unclear when they will be resupplied.

Meanwhile, Mount Sinai Health System in New York said it would stop offering monoclonal antibodies in its emergency departments. It did not specify whether the policy was a result of supply issues.

Hospital Reverses Course, Now Says First Omicron Death in Israel Was Actually Delta

A man who died this week with COVID-19 had the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, not Omicron as previously claimed, an Israeli hospital clarified on Wednesday (Dec. 22).

The Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba said Wednesday that after final laboratory results came in, a man who died Monday (Dec. 20) at the hospital was discovered to have the Delta variant. This comes after the hospital said Tuesday (Dec. 21) that he had been infected with Omicron, and his death was widely reported around the world as Israel’s first Omicron fatality.

The hospital said the man, in his 60s, suffered “many severe” preexisting medical conditions and died after he was hospitalized two weeks ago for his other conditions, and then tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.

FDA Grants Emergency Use Authorization for Merck’s Experimental COVID-19 Pill

The U.S. FDA on Thursday (Dec. 23) said that it has granted an emergency use authorization for Merck’s experimental pill—molnupiravir—that is used to treat COVID-19 patients.

“Today, the US Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for Merck’s Molnupiravir for the treatment of mild-to-moderate coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in adults with positive results of direct SARS-CoV-2 viral testing, and who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death, and for whom alternative COVID-19 treatment options authorized by the FDA are not accessible or clinically appropriate,” the FDA said in a statement.

France Cancels Order for Merck’s Experimental COVID-19 Pill

France has canceled its order for Merck’s experimental COVID-19 pill—molnupiravir (—following disappointing trial data and hopes instead to receive Pfizer’s competing drug before the end of January, the health minister announced on Wednesday (Dec. 22).

France is the first country to publicly say it has canceled an order for the Merck treatment after the company released data in late November suggesting its drug was markedly less effective ( than previously thought, reducing hospitalizations and deaths in its clinical trial of high-risk individuals by about 30%.

“The latest studies weren’t good,” Olivier Veran told BFM TV.

The company said it continued to work with the European Medicines Association (EMA) on its regulatory review of the drug. It has deals to supply or sell the pill to over 30 countries and has shipped product to 12.

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