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EU chief Ursula von der Leyen has warned that the Omicron variant could be dominant in Europe by mid-January.

Germany’s health authority has announced that the United Kingdom had been added to its list of COVID high-risk countries, which will mean tighter travel restrictions, as Europe tries to rein in the rising number of infections linked to the highly mutated Omicron strain.

European Union chief Ursula von der Leyen has warned that the Omicron variant could be dominant in Europe by mid-January.

Many countries are reimposing travel restrictions and other measures weeks after the variant was first detected in South Africa.

Germany’s decision late on Saturday is a response to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, which forced London’s mayor Sadiq Khan to declare a “major incident” on Saturday in the British capital.

The change takes effect on Sunday at midnight.

More than 65,000 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in London over the past seven days, with 26,418 cases reported in the last 24 hours – the highest number since the start of the pandemic.

Here are the latest updates for Sunday:

53 mins ago (01:40 GMT)

Biden to deliver Tuesday speech on Omicron variant amid COVID rise

US President Joe Biden will deliver a speech on Tuesday addressing the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, NBC News reported on Saturday, citing a White House official.

Biden is expected to go beyond his “Winter Plan” with additional steps to help communities in need, the report said.

Earlier, Vice President Kamala Harris admitted that the government “didn’t see Omicron coming”.

“And that’s the nature of what this, this awful virus has been, which as it turns out, has mutations and variants,” she said.

2 hours ago (00:48 GMT)

Australia says it is well prepared for mounting COVID-19 cases

Australian officials on Sunday said there was no need to clamp down on Christmas festivities even as new COVID-19 infections climbed in Sydney, with the country’s high vaccination rate helping keep people out of hospital.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said he was confident Australia would not need to follow the Netherlands, which has reimposed a strict lockdown over the Christmas and New Year period to curb the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant.

“We’re going into summer, we have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world and a very different set of circumstances. So we don’t see that’s a likely situation in Australia,” Hunt told reporters in a televised media conference.

“We’re well prepared and people are overwhelmingly … continuing to do an amazing job,” Hunt said, referring to the more than 90% of Australians over 16 who have been fully vaccinated.

2 hours ago (00:24 GMT)

Dutch head into Christmas ‘lockdown’ to stop Omicron

The Netherlands will go into “lockdown” over the Christmas period to try to stop a surge of the Omicron coronavirus variant, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has announced.

All non-essential shops, restaurants, bars, cinemas, museums and theatres must shut from Sunday until January 14, while schools must close until at least January 9, Rutte said on Saturday.

People are now only allowed two guests at home, except for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, December 26 and the New Year period when four guests are permitted.

“I stand here tonight in a sombre mood,” Rutte told a televised press conference.

“To sum it up in one sentence, the Netherlands will go back into lockdown from tomorrow.

“It is inevitable with the fifth wave and with Omicron spreading even faster than we had feared. We must now intervene as a precaution.”

Source: Al Jazeera

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