December 30 coronavirus pandemic and Omicron variant news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Adrienne Vogt, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 12:57 AM ET, Fri December 31, 2021
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1:42 p.m. ET, December 30, 2021

These are some of the major cities that are canceling their big New Year's Eve events

From CNN's Forrest Brown

In New York City, the New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square will be "scaled back," with fewer revelers and everyone required to wear a mask, Mayor Bill de Blasio's office said last week.

But some major cities in Europe, where the spread of Omicron has been startling, have already announced they're flat-out canceling plans.

On Wednesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci repeated his warning that people should avoid large New Year's Eve gatherings and stick with small gatherings of vaccinated family or close friends.

The following cities have already announced they're canceling their big shindigs:

  • Athens: No fireworks show over the Acropolis this year. Greek Health Minister Thanos Plevris said during a news briefing on Dec. 23, that all public Christmas and New Year celebrations planned by municipalities are canceled.
  • Atlanta: Georgia's capital city is canceling the New Year's Eve Peach Drop at Underground Atlanta because of the rising number of Covid-19 cases, according to a tweet from Underground Atlanta.
  • Berlin: Germany will impose strict contact restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19 starting on Dec. 28 and prohibit New Year's Eve gatherings, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced on Dec. 21. That means no big fireworks gathering in Berlin, the capital, nor in other big gathering spots such as Munich and Frankfurt.
  • Edinburgh: Public New Year's Eve celebrations in Scotland will be canceled, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Dec. 21. In a statement, Sturgeon explained details for post-Christmas restrictions on large events to blunt the spread of Omicron.
  • London: A planned New Year's Eve event in London has been canceled over Covid-19 concerns, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan tweeted on Dec. 20. "Due to the surge in Covid cases, we've taken the difficult decision to cancel our NYE event in Trafalgar Square," Khan tweeted. "The safety of all Londoners must come first."
  • New Delhi: The government of India's union territory of Delhi, which encompasses the national capital of New Delhi, has announced a ban on all social, cultural, political and festival gatherings until further notice because of a rise in Covid-19 cases, CNN's New Delhi Bureau reports.
  • Paris: Paris has canceled its traditional fireworks display over the Champs-Elysées Avenue to welcome the New Year because of the renewed coronavirus surge. "The fireworks will not take place, nor unfortunately will there be any DJ sets," the mayor's office told AFP in a report on France24.com. French Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Dec. 17, that major public parties and fireworks would be banned on New Year's Eve and recommended that even vaccinated people take a self-test before getting together for year-end parties, according to Reuters.
  • Rome: In Italy, Rome is among several cities that have decided to cancel festivities over Covid health concerns. Large New Year's Eve celebrations across the country have been canceled, including open air concerts and fireworks in Venice. Nightclubs will be closed for the month of January as well. The Campania region has also banned feasts and alcohol consumption in public areas from Dec. 23 to Jan. 1.

See which cities are still moving forward with their NYE's plans here.

1:34 p.m. ET, December 30, 2021

Greece reports another record-high in new daily Covid-19 cases

From CNN’s Mia Alberti and Chris Liakos

Greece has reported a new record-high in the number of daily Covid-19 cases with 35,580 additional cases registered on Thursday, according to government data. 

A further 72 coronavirus-related deaths were also reported Thursday.  

On Wednesday, Health Minister Thanos Plevris announced a series of new restrictions as part of the government’s efforts to curb the spread of the Omicron variant. 

The measures include the closure of hospitality and entertainment venues at midnight, a ban on standing customers and a maximum limit of six people per table, reduced sports venue capacity and the reintroduction of 50% remote working for public and private sectors.

1:36 p.m. ET, December 30, 2021

Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is 92% effective at preventing Covid-19 in ages 12-17, CDC data shows

From CNN's Katherine Dillinger

A Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine is prepared for administration at a vaccination clinic on September 22, in Los Angeles.
A Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine is prepared for administration at a vaccination clinic on September 22, in Los Angeles. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

The mRNA vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech is 92% effective at preventing Covid-19 in young people ages 12 to 17, according to data published Thursday in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The researchers looked at 243 adolescents with no previous positive Covid-19 tests in Arizona between July 25 and Dec. 4. The teens or their parents took nasal swabs and sent them in for weekly PCR testing. Twenty-one teens tested positive during the study period, and 18 of them reported symptoms. The findings are consistent with clinical trials and other studies, the researchers report. 

The study took place during a period when Delta was the dominant circulating variant of the coronavirus. Early findings suggest that the latest variant, Omicron, may be less sensitive to vaccines. A booster dose raises protection levels, but boosters have not been approved for children and teens in the US. 

The US Food and Drug Administration has approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for people as young as 16, and it’s available under an emergency use authorization for ages 5 to 15. 

Other research published in the MMWR on Thursday found that reports of serious adverse events were rare in children ages 5 to 11 who got the vaccine. 

The study looked at reports of two safety surveillance systems, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) and v-safe, from Nov. 3 to Dec. 19. During this period, about 8.7 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine were given to kids 5-11. 

VAERS received 4,249 reports of adverse events, and more than 97% were not serious. One hundred serious events were reported, most commonly fever, vomiting and increased levels of troponin, a protein found in the heart muscle. There were 12 reports of seizure and 15 reports of myocarditis, of which 11 were verified.

More on the study: V-safe enrolled 42,504 vaccinated children ages 5-11. After the first dose of the vaccine, 54.8% reported local reactions and 34.7 reported systemic reactions; after the second dose, 57.5% reported local reactions and 40.9% reported systemic reactions. The most commonly reported reactions were pain at the injection site, fatigue and headache.

The researchers noted that their findings are consistent with clinical trials and that both VAERS and v-safe rely on reports that may be biased or underreported. “Parents and guardians of children ages 5 to 11 years should be advised that local and systemic reactions are expected after vaccination,” they wrote. “Vaccination remains the most effective way to prevent Covid-19 infection.”

 

1:23 p.m. ET, December 30, 2021

Japanese government: No Covid spread occurred between Tokyo 2020 participants and locals

From CNN's Hande Atay Alam 

There was no spread of Covid-19 between participants of the postponed 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo this year and the local population, according to genomic sequencing data confirmed by the government of Japan. 

The positive cases in the Olympic Village and those of Japanese residents were unrelated, the government report said. 

The data was released by Dr. Saito Tomoya, director of the Centre of Emergency Preparedness and Response of Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases, during the International Olympic Committee World Conference on Prevention of Injury and Illness in Sport.

According to Saito, the dominant SARS-CoV-2 variant in Japan originated from the initial Delta strain that first entered the country around May, two months before the Games. This variant is not endemic anywhere else in the world. “That means there is no evidence that the virus was spread to the rest of the world by participants in Tokyo 2020. And no epidemic other than AY.29 in Japan means that virus strains that were brought in by the participants did not spread in Japan,” he said.

This data also provided the breakdown of Covid-19 cases between athletes and officials and the other accredited participants of the Games.

"As the other participants were largely Japanese residents living in or around Tokyo, the number of cases among them went up at the same time as local cases were increasing. On the other hand, imported cases from athletes and officials, the majority of whom were overseas visitors staying at the Olympic Village or Games accommodation, were contained effectively," according to the report. 
1:15 p.m. ET, December 30, 2021

Avoid cruises regardless of vaccination status, CDC advises

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

A cruise ship is pictured docked in New York city on December 5, 2021.
A cruise ship is pictured docked in New York city on December 5, 2021. (Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images)

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention increased the risk level for cruise ship travel to its highest level and said cruise travel should be avoided, regardless of vaccination status.

“The COVID-19 Travel Health Notice level has been updated from Level 3 to Level 4, the highest level,” the CDC website said on Thursday. “This reflects increases in cases onboard cruise ships since identification of the Omicron variant.”

“Since the identification of the Omicron variant, there has been an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases among cruise passengers and crew reported to CDC. Additionally, there has been an increase in the number of cruise ships meeting the COVID-19 case threshold for CDC investigation,” the agency said.

The CDC said people should avoid cruise travel, regardless of whether they are vaccinated. Those who do travel on a cruise ship should make sure they are fully vaccinated and boosted, if eligible. People who go on a cruise should also get tested one to three days before their trip, and three to five days after, regardless of vaccination status.

For the unvaccinated, they should also self-quarantine for five full days after. People on cruise ships should also wear masks in shared places, the CDC said.

1:18 p.m. ET, December 30, 2021

NYC Times Square New Year's Eve celebration should've been canceled, CNN medical analyst says

The 2022 sign that will be lit on top of a building on New Year's Eve is displayed in Times Square, New York, Monday, Dec. 20, 2021. 
The 2022 sign that will be lit on top of a building on New Year's Eve is displayed in Times Square, New York, Monday, Dec. 20, 2021.  (Seth Wenig/AP)

New York City's New Year's Eve celebration in Time Square should've been canceled due to the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant, CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner said.

"I think that right now, we're in the public health crisis of our lifetimes, and although I love a big celebration, and it's good for the nation's spirit to celebrate New Year’s Eve, you know, all those people have to get to Times Square via some way," Reiner, a professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University, said on CNN. "They're all going to be on public transportation. They can be on the subways. They are going to pack the subways, and ... I think, frankly, it should have been canceled the way most European cities have done."

London and Paris are among major European cities that have canceled New Year's Eve celebrations due to the latest Covid-19 surge.

Dr. Jonathan Reiner.
Dr. Jonathan Reiner. (CNN)

Reiner said Americans need to hunker down for the next few weeks.

"I think that we can all celebrate at home, and we'll get take-in, we'll support our restaurants by buying their food but eating it in our own homes, staying safe for the next few weeks. And this surge is going to end, and we're going to come out on the other side, and we're going to learn our lessons and we will go on with our lives, but my message for everyone is stay safe right now," he said.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has defended the decision to hold a scaled-down Times Square celebration, which will have fewer revelers and a mask requirement, saying the event will "send a message to the world [that] New York City is open."

"The way to deal with Covid is not shutdowns," de Blasio said this morning. "It's even more in terms of vaccination, doubling down on vaccinations."

12:46 p.m. ET, December 30, 2021

FDA expected to broaden Pfizer Covid-19 booster eligibility to ages 12-15 in days, source says

From CNN’s Kaitlan Collins

A child receives a dose of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine at an event launching school vaccinations in Los Angeles, California on November 5.
A child receives a dose of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine at an event launching school vaccinations in Los Angeles, California on November 5. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

The US Food and Drug Administration is expected to broaden eligibility for Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine boosters to youths ages 12 to 15 in the coming days, according to a person familiar with the agency’s plan.

People as young as 16 are already eligible to receive boosters of the Pfizer vaccine six months after their two-dose series. Youths ages 12 to 15 have been eligible to receive the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine since May; as of early July, about four million people in this age group had been fully vaccinated and would be eligible for a booster immediately.

When asked on Wednesday about boosters for adolescents and younger teens, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told CNN that the FDA “is looking at that right now; of course the CDC will swiftly follow as soon as we hear from them, and I’m hoping to have that in … the days to weeks ahead.” 

US health officials have been pushing for months for adults to get boosted, especially after the emergence of the Omicron variant.

Studies have already shown the two-dose Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine does not provide sufficient protection against infection with the Omicron coronavirus variant, although it still appears to help protect against severe disease. A booster dose increased protection significantly, studies have shown.

The latest timeline for people ages 12 to 15 was first reported by The New York Times. The Times also reported that the booster schedule will shift from six months after the primary dose series to five months, and a booster shot is expected to be authorized for children ages 5 to 11 with immune deficiencies.

12:40 p.m. ET, December 30, 2021

Italy reports new daily record of Covid-19 infections

From CNN’s Nicola Ruotolo in Rome

People line up at a rapid swab testing site in Rome on Thursday, Dec. 30.
People line up at a rapid swab testing site in Rome on Thursday, Dec. 30. (Andrew Medichini/AP)

Italy has reported a new record of 126,888 daily Covid-19 cases, government data showed Thursday, as well as 156 further coronavirus-related deaths. 

According to the data released by the Health Ministry of Italy, an additional 288 patients were hospitalized, while 41 patients have now been admitted to intensive care.

12:00 p.m. ET, December 30, 2021

Uruguay detects first cases of Omicron variant

From CNN’s Karol Suarez 

The first cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant have been detected in Uruguay, the health ministry said in a statement on Wednesday. 

“Confirmed cases have been detected by the national surveillance system of the Ministry of Public Health; it has started the epidemiological investigation that includes contact tracing and recommendations of prevention and control,” the statement reads. 

The health ministry recommended the population to get their booster shots “as soon as possible, especially among high priority populations, who remain unvaccinated, or are not yet fully vaccinated.”