Coronavirus News Briefing – Dec. 2: EU President Backs Vaccine Mandates, Rockefeller Center Tree Lighted in New York City

Coronavirus News Briefing – Dec. 2: EU President Backs Vaccine Mandates, Rockefeller Center Tree Lighted in New York City

Rockefeller Christmas Tree

The European Union must consider coronavirus vaccination mandates for all residents as a response to the omicron variant, European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen said Wednesday.

Von der Leyen said the EU’s 27 member states should quickly deploy booster doses and consider temporarily enforcing pre-travel PCR tests even within the bloc’s borders.

“We have the vaccines, the life-saving vaccines, but they are not being used adequately everywhere,” Von der Leyen, who practiced as a doctor before her political career, said to reporters.

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, one of the world’s most visited, was lighted in a star-studded ceremony in New York City that was, for the first time since 2019, open to the public.  Last year’s ceremony was closed to the public because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The 79-foot (24-meter) tall Norway spruce will be on display through early January 2022.  Visitors will face far fewer restrictions than last year, when reservations were required and social distancing was mandated.  An estimated 125 million people come to Rockefeller Center in Midtown Manhattan each year to see the tree, which is bedecked in 50,000 multicolored LED lights and topped by a three-dimensional star with 70 spikes covered in three million Swarovski crystals.  Designed by the architect Daniel Libeskind, the star weighs 900 pounds (408 kilograms).

In London, where theaters in the West End began to open up in July without any restrictions, including no requirement for theatergoers to don face masks, on Monday, with no government mandate, playhouses began to tell patrons to mask up.  The Royal Shakespeare Company announced such a policy for its theaters in Stratford-upon-Avon, a move that was followed by Andrew Lloyd Weber’s six theaters, which include the Adelphi, home to “Back to the Future – The Musical” and Her Majesty’s Theatre, home to “Phantom of the Opera.”

Other theaters quickly followed including the English National Opera, the National Theater, the Royal Opera House, and the Old Vic.

Meanwhile, Canadian officials announced plans to require coronavirus tests for all but U.S. arrivals on international flights.   Industry groups warned of possible “chaos” and long lines if all such passengers must get tested at the airport.

As of Thursday morning, the world has recorded 263.9 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.6 million new cases, and over 5.2 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 238.3million people worldwide have recovered from the virus.

The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in the United States over the past 14 days is 86,565, a 1% decrease.  The average daily death toll over the same period is 947, a decrease of 10% over the same period.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Thursday, recorded 49.6 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 805,004. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, 34.6 million, and a death toll of 469,724, although experts believe that both numbers are in reality significantly higher.  Finally, Brazil has recorded the second highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 615,020, and has over 22.1 million cases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Thursday, 233.6 million people in the United States – or 70.4% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 59.4%, or 197.4 million people, are now fully vaccinated, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 462.3 million. Breaking this down further, 82.8% of the population over the age of 18 – or 213.7 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 71.2% of the same group – or 183.9 million people – is fully vaccinated.

Some 54.6% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, a 0.1 percentage point increase over the prior day, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 8.07 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis.

Meanwhile, only 6% of people in low-income countries have received one dose, while in countries such as Canada, China, Denmark, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States, at least 65% of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine. In countries such as Ethiopia, Haiti, Syria, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda, for example, vaccination rates remain in the single digits, if not lower.

Figures from the World Health Organization show that well-off countries are vaccinating people at the rate of one person per second, while the majority of poor countries have yet to give a single dose to its citizens.

It is critical that the world do a better job of sharing vaccines with poorer nations.

Sharing vaccines is not merely a form of charity.  Rather, the equitable distribution of vaccines is in every country’s health and economic interest and no country will be able to move past the pandemic until other countries have recovered as well.

Jonathan Spira contributed to this story

(Photo: Accura Media Group)