Twitter blocks US congresswoman’s account over false COVID claims

Social media platform permanently bans Marjorie Taylor Greene’s account for repeated violations of its COVID misinformation policy.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., listens during a news conference
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene [File: J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo]

Twitter says it has permanently suspended the personal account of Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene for violating the platform’s COVID-19 misinformation policy.

Meanwhile, more than 3,800 flights were cancelled around the world – more than 2,200 of them in the United States – as countries report record cases of the coronavirus caused by the Omicron variant.

In Europe, thousands of people defied a ban on gatherings in Amsterdam for a demonstration against the Dutch government’s coronavirus lockdown measures. France said all unvaccinated travellers from the US will need to self-isolate for 10 days.

India has reported more than 27,000 new COVID-19 infections – the highest daily count since October. Neighbouring Pakistan warned the country is entering its fifth coronavirus wave.

The blog is now closed. Here are the updates for Sunday:

Omicron leads to extra burden on Gaza hospitals: AJ correspondent

The densely populated Gaza Strip has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases as the Palestinian health ministry warned the territory is on the verge of a powerful fourth wave.

“The densely populated in clave has detected the presence of the Omicron variant, which was extra burdens on the health sector,” Al Jazeera’s Youmna Sayed reported from Gaza, adding that Israel, which is blockading the coastal enclave, continued to prevent the entry of vital medical devices.

Magdy Duhair, the Deputy Director General of Primary Care said he was afraid that the capacity of receiving of these cases will be a “big challenge” due to the lack of oxygen therapy, ventilators and ICU beds.

Lionel Messi, three others at PSG test positive

Paris St Germain forward Lionel Messi and three other players have tested positive for COVID-19, the French Ligue 1 club has said.

Defender Juan Bernat, back-up goalkeeper Sergio Rico and midfielder Nathan Bitumazala were the other players who returned positive tests.

Read more here.

Argentina international Messi joined PSG in August and the 34-year-old has scored six goals in 16 games in all competitions for the Parisian side [File: Christophe Ena/AP Photo]

Fifth COVID wave could be last: French minister

Health Minister Olivier Veran believes “the fifth wave of COVID-19 is perhaps the last” in what for many around the world has become an endless pandemic.

President Emmanuel Macron’s government insists that getting as many people vaccinated – and boosted – as possible is the best way to contain fast-spreading omicron variant, Veran the weekly Le Journal Au Dimanche.

It’s also the only way to avoid new lockdowns, damage to the country’s economic recovery and the pressure on already overburdened hospitals, he added.

Virus outbreak ends cruise for thousands on German ship

The German operator of a cruise ship that has been stuck in Lisbon’s port due to an outbreak of the coronavirus among its crew pulled the plug on the voyage after some passengers tested positive, port authorities said.

The AIDAnova, with 2,844 passengers and 1,353 crew onboard docked in Lisbon on December 29 while en route to the island of Madeira for New Year’s Eve celebrations, but was unable to continue the journey after 52 cases of COVID-19 were detected among the fully-vaccinated crew.

It had been allowed to leave port and head to the Spanish island of Lanzarote, but now another 12 people have tested positive, including four passengers, captain of the port Diogo Vieira Branco told TSF radio.

The crew who had tested positive between Wednesday and Friday were transferred to Lisbon hotels and were in isolation there [File: Patricia De Melo Moreira/AFP]

Israel approves fourth COVID vaccine for people over 60

Israel will offer a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine to people over 60 and to medical staff, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced, adding the country’s top medical officer had approved the shot.

More than 3,800 flight cancellations globally: airline tracker

Flight tracking website Flight Aware said 3894 flights were cancelled as of 18:30 GMT, due to adverse weather and coronavirus infections.

The flights cancelled included more than 2,200 entering, departing from or within the United States.

Globally, 9,893 flights were delayed.

Qatar enters third wave of coronavirus: Health official

Qatar is now in the beginning of its third COVID-19 wave, head of vaccination at the Ministry of Public Health said, according to local media outlet, The Peninsula.

Speaking to Qatar TV, Soha Al Bayat urged residents to get their booster shot while noting that most of the infections were seen in those “who did not receive vaccination including children and those who took the two doses more than 6 months ago”, The Peninsula reported.

Twitter blocks US lawmaker’s account over COVID claims

Twitter announced it has permanently suspended the personal account of outspoken Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene for violating the platform’s COVID-19 misinformation policy.

The lawmaker from Georgia is fervent supporter of Donald Trump and his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, and is also known for making outlandish anti-vaccine claims and other false statements about the coronavirus pandemic.

Twitter said it was shutting down Greene’s personal account for repeated violations of its COVID misinformation policy. She still has access to her official Twitter handle.

In a statement on the messaging app Telegram, Greene blasted Twitter’s move as un-American. She wrote that her account was suspended after tweeting statistics from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, a government database which includes unverified raw data.

“Twitter is an enemy to America and can’t handle the truth,” Greene said. “That’s fine, I’ll show America we don’t need them and it’s time to defeat our enemies.”

Republican US House candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene [File: Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters]

Eligible US employees should work from home: Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs Group Inc is encouraging its eligible US staff to work from home until January 18, a company spokesperson said, as the Omicron coronavirus variant spreads across the country.

Goldman’s offices will continue to remain open with previously announced COVID-19 safety protocols, the spokesperson added.

Italy reports more than 61,000 coronavirus cases

Italy reported 61,046 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday following 141,262 the day before, the health ministry said, reflecting a steep drop in the number of tests, while the daily tally of COVID-related deaths rose to 133 from 111.

Italy has registered 137,646 deaths linked to the virus since its outbreak emerged in February 2020, and has reported 6.328 million cases to date.

Patients in hospital with COVID-19 – not including those in intensive care – stood at 11,756 on Sunday, up from 11,265 a day earlier.

England and Wales report 137,583 infections

The United Kingdom reported 137,583 new cases of COVID-19 in England and Wales, compared with 162,572 cases in England on Saturday, according to government data.

There were 73 deaths within 28 days of a positive test in England and Wales, a drop on the 154 reported in England on Saturday.

The government said data for Scotland and Northern Ireland would be updated after the New Year holiday.

The UK has recorded more than 13 million COVID cases to date [File: Andy Rain/EPA]

Secondary students in England to wear masks: Minister

Secondary school students in England will be required to wear face masks when they return to classes after the Christmas holidays.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said Sunday the move was an attempt to “minimise disruption” in schools as the highly transmissible Omicron variant drives coronavirus infections in the UK to record levels.

Similar guidance on masks for students ages 11 and above was already in place for schools in Scotland and Wales.

Fauci cites near ‘vertical’ rise in COVID, but sees hope

The United States is experiencing “almost a vertical increase” in COVID cases as the Omicron variant sweeps the country, but the peak may be only weeks away, top US pandemic adviser Anthony Fauci said.

“We are definitely in the middle of a very severe surge and uptick in cases,” Fauci said on ABC’s, This Week, calling the soaring infection rate “really unprecedented”.

With the Omicron variant of the virus sweeping around the world, more than 440,000 new cases were reported in the US on Friday.

Fauci warns of hospitalisation surge

Top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said there was still a danger of a surge in hospitalisation due to a large number of coronavirus cases even as early data suggests the Omicron COVID-19 variant is less severe.

“The only difficulty is that if you have so many many cases, even if the rate of hospitalisation is lower with Omicron than it is with Delta, there is still the danger that you will have a surging of hospitalisations that might stress the healthcare system,” Fauci said in an interview with CNN.

Pakistan faces fifth COVID wave: Minister

Pakistan is facing a fifth wave of coronavirus amid surging infections across the country, a senior official said.

Planning Minister Asad Umar, who also heads the country’s anti-virus strategy, said there is “clear evidence” that the fifth wave of the COVID-19 was starting and expected “for last few weeks”.

Bulgaria detects first cases of Omicron

Bulgaria has detected its first 12 cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, the Balkan country’s chief health inspector, Angel Kunchev, said.

“We have confirmed the new variant in samples from 12 people,” Kunchev told reporters.

Kunchev said the infected people, mainly from the capital Sofia, were experiencing mild symptoms and none was hospitalised.

A doctor in a white full body suit checks on a patient wearing a respiration mask in a hospital.
A doctor examines a patient at the COVID-19 unit of a hospital in Kjustendil [File: Nikolay Doychinov/AFP]

Thousands protests lockdown rules in Amsterdam

Thousands of people defied a ban on gatherings to assemble on an Amsterdam square for a demonstration against the Dutch government’s coronavirus lockdown measures.

The municipality of the Dutch capital had outlawed the protest, saying police had indications some demonstrators could be attending “prepared for violence”.

India reports more than 27,000 cases

Infections in India rose sharply rising for a fifth consecutive day with 27,553 COVID cases in the last 24 hours.

The country’s largest cities, including Delhi and the financial capital Mumbai, have seen a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, including those of the Omicron variant, which has triggered a fresh wave of infections in other parts of the world.

Although the number of active cases in Delhi has tripled in just the last three days, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that hospitalisations had not gone up.

“This means that most people who are coming down with [COVID-19] are not requiring hospital care. They are mild cases,” Kejriwal said in an online briefing.

A paramedic checks an oxygen cylinder at a makeshift COVID-19 care center at an indoor sports stadium in New Delhi
A paramedic make checks an oxygen concentrator at a makeshift COVID-19 care centre at an indoor sport stadium in New Delhi, India [File: Altaf Qadri/AP Photo]

Thousands of flights cancelled amid virus surge

More than 3,300 flights were cancelled around the world, more than half of them were US flights, adding to the toll of holiday week travel disruptions due to adverse weather and the surge in coronavirus cases caused by the Omicron variant.

Including those delayed but not cancelled, more than 4,800 flights were delayed in total, according to a running tally on the tracking website

Heading towards COVID ‘storm’: Israel PM

Israel’s prime minister has warned the country will soon see tens of thousands of new coronavirus cases a day amid the spread of the Omicron virus.

Naftali Bennett  said that despite rolling out more than 4.2 million coronavirus booster shots to the country’s population of 9.3 million since July, “the storm is coming to us these very days.”

Naftali Bennett speaks at a podium in front of Israeli flags.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett [File: Menahem Kahana/AFP]

Unvaccinated US travellers to self-isolate for 10 days: France

Unvaccinated individuals travelling from the US will have to self-isolate in France for 10 days under supervision from local authorities in line with new government restrictions that come into force on Sunday.

All passengers from the US have to provide a negative COVID-19 test – a PCR or an antigen test – no older than 48 hours in addition to proof of vaccination before boarding a flight to France.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies