International business groups are urging Hong Kong to restart international flights after a ratings group warned the travel restrictions, imposed last week because of COVID-19 outbreaks, could have dire effects on the territory’s economy.
Fitch Ratings said, “A new wave of restrictions on various social activities within Hong Kong and a further tightening of controls on international travel ... are likely to dampen economic growth prospects.”
Some Hong Kong executives who traveled out of the territory for the winter holidays found that they could not return to Hong Kong because of the new restrictions that are designed to be in place for at least two weeks but may last longer. Fitch said, “We believe the tightening of restrictions on international arrivals will create further obstacles to the territory’s ability to serve as a regional headquarters” for foreign multinational companies.
The Cyprus Mail reports that a University of Cyprus scientist and his team have discovered a new COVID variant. Dr. Leontios Kostrikis told the publication that deltacron has the genetic background of the delta variant and some of the mutations of omicron.
“The frequency of the mutations was higher among those in hospital which could mean there is a correlation between deltacron and hospitalizations,” Kostrikis told the Mail.
Australia’s New South Wales state reported 16 deaths from COVID-19 on Sunday, its deadliest day in the two-year pandemic. The state, Australia’s most populous, already has 200,000 people in isolation, and reported more than 30,000 new cases.
On Sunday, New South Wales Health issued a statement allowing essential workers to return to work if they do not have any symptoms, if their employer says they are needed. They must wear a mask and pass a daily rapid antigen test. Some employers are reporting as many as half their workers are staying home because they have had contact with an infected person.
Victoria, Australia’s second-largest state, reported more than 44,000 new cases and four deaths, Reuters reported. The entire country will surpass 1 million infections sometime Sunday, according to the Australia Broadcasting Corp.
Saturday, more than 100,000 people took to the streets across France to protest proposed new restrictions that will require proof of vaccination to eat out, travel on intercity trains or go to a cultural event. The turnout was four times the government’s estimate of 25,000 protesters who marched on Dec. 18, Agence France-Presse reported.
Protesters also marched in several German cities Saturday, demanding a halt to restrictions on those who have not been vaccinated against the coronavirus. The main demonstrations occurred in Duesseldorf, Frankfurt and Magdeburg.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced Friday that proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test will now be required to enter bars and restaurants in the country. Currently, proof of vaccination is required to enter many public venues.
Protests of government coronavirus restrictions also took place Saturday in Turin, Italy, and Beirut.
The United Kingdom’s death toll from COVID-19 since the pandemic began topped 150,000 on Saturday, more deaths than any other European country except Russia. Britain reported a record of 146,390 new cases on Saturday.
"Coronavirus has taken a terrible toll on our country and today the number of deaths recorded has reached 150,000," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement. "Our way out of this pandemic is for everyone to get their booster or their first or second dose if they haven't yet."
India’s capital, New Delhi, was shut down Saturday to halt the spread of the coronavirus, after a nearly fourfold nationwide spike in infections in the last week alone. Most shops were closed, but some essential services remained open.
More than 140,000 new cases across the country were reported Saturday, the most since the end of May, the health ministry said. It also reported more than 280 new deaths, for a total of nearly 484,000 since the pandemic began.
The surge in infections in India is fueled by the highly contagious omicron variant as political rallies attended by tens of thousands of people continue to be held by candidates before state elections are held later this year.
Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.