For the second straight year, Christmas is looking like a horrible holiday season with lockdowns, cancellations and packed emergency rooms again spreading over Europe and foreshadowing what is heading to the United States.
The Netherlands will be locked down until at least the first week of January after a surge in Omicron cases that started with doomed flights from southern Africa less than a month ago has now overwhelmed the health care system. “I stand here tonight in a somber mood. And a lot of people watching will feel that way too,” Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Saturday evening announcing the cancellation of Christmas fun. “To sum it up in one sentence, the Netherlands will go back into lockdown from tomorrow.”
In Italy, which kicked off the pandemic outside China in early 2020, cases are doubling every three or four days. Delta is still the dominant variant, meaning hospitalizations and deaths are almost certain. New Year’s Eve concerts have been cancelled, travel has been discouraged and soon even the vaccinated will have to provide a negative COVID test to see a movie or attend a sporting event.
The U.K. has been struggling to keep up with cases, which are nearing 95,000 a day, with many saying almost everyone in London will have COVID before winter is over. There hospitalizations have started to worry health care providers, yet the government promises they won’t lock down before Christmas. London mayor Sadiq Khan declared the latest wave a “major incident” which is a label often reserved for terror attacks and other lethal threats to the city.
France has seen cases surge, prompting the government to cancel the famous fireworks over the Eiffel Tower in Paris to kick off the new year. They have also banned any but essential travel from the U.K., stranding thousands of people hoping to join family on continental Europe. France will soon convert its health pass to a vaccine pass, meaning a COVID test alone won’t open any doors.
Germany, which was the epicenter of the Delta variant outbreak all fall, is starting to see more Omicron cases. They, too have shut out the Brits, complicating the holidays for an untold number.
Denmark is closing theaters, cinemas, stadiums, amusement parks and museums and bringing back a curfew and limitations to the number of people who can sit together in restaurants. Ireland is closing pubs at 8 pm and limiting capacity to all public events.
The list goes on. Last year was a holiday season like no other with the world grinding to a halt to stop the spread of what was then the second wave of the pandemic. The promise of vaccines gave 2021 hope, but the year is ending with another grim holiday season and a sense of dread about what 2022 will bring.