COVID-19 Live Updates: Several Colleges Switch to Virtual for COVID Safety

Live Updates

World leaders and health officials are warnings of a "double challenge" in the fight against COVID-19 as the Delta and Omicron variants surge alongside each other, with countries in Europe facing a serious challenge over the Christmas period before the new variant is expected to take over in early 2022.

In the U.S., Omicron has been detected in at least 36 states as it spreads quickly across the country. Top doctors, including Harvard Medical School's Dr. Jacob Lemieux, have warned that "hospitals are already filling up" and that already fatigued staff may be unable to cope with a double wave. The White House yesterday, however, insisted there was no need for more restrictions and said it had faith in the vaccines to offer the protection needed.

Many colleges switched to virtual in wake of rising COVID cases

According to the Associated Press, COVID cases are rising across the world some colleges have begun to require booster shots, limit social gatherings, extend mask mandates, close early, and switch to virtual learning.

Last week, Syracuse University announced that all eligible students and employees must get COVID-19 booster shots before the spring term. Students will also undergo many COVID tests when they return to the school campus, and officials are also deciding whether to extend an existing mask mandate.

When you should get tested for COVID

NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene provided tips for getting testing for COVID-19 this holiday season.

Poland reports first Omicron cases

Poland reports its first Omicron variant case.

The health ministry said a 30-year-old woman is in isolation after she visited Poland for the U.N. Digital Summit in the city of Katowice last week. She tested positive for COVID-19 as she was preparing to leave.

The country has experienced a surge in cases in recent weeks, as new infections average around 20,000 to 25,000 daily.

South Korea issues strict COVID-19 measures for social gatherings

South Korea issued tight resrtrictions on social gatherings amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.

The country will prohibit private social gatherings of five or more people and will force restaurants to close at 9 p.m. Schools in densely populated metropolitan areas will also return to remote learning. The measures will take effect on Saturday and will be enforced for at least 16 days.

This comes after the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 7,622 new cases Thursday.

"During this period of standstill, the government will reinforce the stability of our medical response capabilities," Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said during a virus meeting. "We ask our people to respond to these efforts by actively getting vaccinated."

WATCH: Which states have vaccine mandates and why?

Over 20 U.S. states have some form of vaccine-based restrictions as lawmakers try to come up with a way to maintain civil liberties and contain the spread of COVID.

The strictest rules in the country were announced in New York last month, with all private sector workers and young customers required to show proof of vaccination before entering public places.

'He thought it was a conspiracy': Man reveals details about first Omicron death in U.K.

A relative of the country's "first Omicron victim" - a fit and healthy man who believed in conspiracies around the pandemic - called radio station LBC this morning to talk about how his stepfather died after being drawn into lies online.

The caller, who gave only his first name only as John, told the station that his sister was informed by doctors that his stepdad was the first person to die with the variant.

He wasn't vaccinated at all. My sister, she's gutted - but on the other hand she's a little bit angry that he never took these vaccines. She did have an argument with him at the end of October about this very thing, getting vaccinated. He thought it was a conspiracy. He was an intelligent man but it's all these different things you are getting from online and different media things...about 'oh it's not real'...conspiracy theories really.

Graph shows shocking vaccine divide between continents

New data has revealed the shocking gap between richer and poorer nations when it comes to the COVID vaccine rollout.

A graphic from Newsweek and Statista shows that every continent has at least half their populations vaccinated except Africa, which sits at just 8 percent.

Data reveals uneven vaccine rollout
New data has revealed the shocking gap between richer and poorer nations when it comes to COVID. Newsweek/Statista

Queen cancels pre-Christmas gathering with family

Her Majesty has decided not to go ahead with the Buckingham Palace meal, which officials said was a precaution to stop any disruption to the Royal Family's Christmas plans.

Plans are still on for Christmas lunch, however, with the Queen expected to invite her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to join her at Sandringham.

Indonesia confirms first Omicron case

The variant was detected on Wednesday evening in a member of staff at a hotel in Jakarta who had recently traveled abroad, according to President Joko Widodo.

He urged people to stick to current advice and get vaccinated as soon as possible, despite the situation being "close to normal" for the country for a while.

I ask people who have not received the vaccine twice, immediately go to a health facility and get the vaccine. Even though the domestic situation is close to normal, don't slack off implementing health protocols.

Indonesia - the fourth most populous country in the world - has recorded over four million cases and 143,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

U.K. health official says it is 'sensible to cut down on interactions with people'

Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty is giving evidence to MPs in the British Parliament, telling them that "people want to protect the time that is most important to them".

That does mean in practice that it is sensible for people to cut down on work or other interactions with people, incl potentially social ones, that are less important to them. That also, to be clear, was a message that the Prime Minister said last night

It comes after a press conference yesterday where he told people to only go to social occasions which "matter" the most - seemingly contradicting Prime Minister Boris Johnson's refusal to announce any further restrictions.

U.S. holiday travel expected to 'bounce back' over Christmas

Around 109 million Americans are likely to travel in the final days of the year, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA), which anticipates people will be traveling 50 miles or more during the last week of December and the first few days of January.

The numbers would mean a hike of about 34 percent compared to travel numbers last year - a "dramatic bounce-back" according to the federation.

That dramatic bounce-back — 27.7 million more people traveling — will bring this year's numbers to 92% of 2019 levels.

FULL STORY: 'Dramatic Bounce-Back' of U.S. Holiday Travel Expected Despite Omicron Spread

Weekly U.S. COVID cases to jump 55 percent by Christmas - CDC

As Omicron spreads and Delta remains a serious problem for many states, the Centers for Disease Control has predicted at least 1.3 million cases will be recorded in the week ending Christmas Day.

The agency is also predicting a significant rise in the number of hospitalizations in the new year - up to 18,400 in the week to January 7 - followed by a spike in deaths.

U.K. confirms hauliers 'remain exempt' from French travel restrictions

The country's transport secretary Grant Shapps has spoken to French government officials this morning to ensure lorries and trucks carrying goods - including many people's Christmas presents - can continue moving freely between the countries.

New Zealand detects first case of Omicron

The country - which has had extremely strict measures in place since the beginning of the pandemic - had been hit by the first detected case of the new variant.

The person, who is double jabbed with Pzifer, arrived in Auckland from Germany via Dubai on December 10 and flew to Christchurch on an aircraft chartered for international arrivals, according to the government.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said officials "knew it would be a case of when, not if, Omicron arrived on New Zealand's shores" and that the country was prepared for its spread.

With a strong border, we are prepared to detect Omicron cases in international arrivals and manage them appropriately. Whole genome sequencing on every COVID-19 case detected at the border remains a critical element in our defence against COVID-19. We know how rapidly Omicron has spread globally, so it's been important to make sure every border case detected undergoes urgent genome sequencing.

France to block British entry from Saturday

As Omicron spreads rapidly across Britain - with a record-smashing 78,600 cases reported yesterday - the country is attempting to avoid an overwhelming surge in the variant as it already struggles with the effects of a current Delta wave.

Entry will only be allowed for people with "compelling reasons" - which will not include business trips.

There will be an "obligation for all travelers from the U.K. to register, prior to their trip, on a digital platform allowing them to enter the address of their stay in France", according to the French government this morning.

Good morning and welcome to Newsweek's liveblog

Many countries are considering how to tackle the spread of Omicron in the middle of a ferocious wave of the Delta variant.

Follow Newsweek's liveblog throughout Thursday for all the latest.