Filipino typhoon misery, pandemic diminishes Christmas joy

Manila, Philippines (AP) —Hundreds of thousands of people in the Philippines, Asia’s largest Roman Catholic country, were home on Saturday, with ample food and water, electricity, after at least 375 people were killed in a strong typhoon last week. Christmas was celebrated without a mobile phone connection and almost devastated the central island state.

Elsewhere, New Zealanders are one of the few countries in the world to be barely exposed to the Omicron variant of COVID-19, celebrating Christmas in the warmth of midsummer with almost no restrictions.

Australia is on vacation amid a surge in COVID-19. This is worse than at any stage of the pandemic, forcing the state to reinstate mask obligations and other measures.

And even more painful for travelers, airlines around the world canceled hundreds of flights as Omicron variants disrupted schedules and reduced staff levels.

according to FlightAwareThere are more than 3,900 canceled flights on Fridays and Saturdays, nearly half of the cancellations by Chinese airlines. Approximately 30% (more than 1,100) of the affected flights were to / from the United States, within the United States, or within the United States. This is still a small part of the world’s flights. FlightAware states that it has tracked over 100,000 arrivals in the last 24 hours.

Before the typhoon Rye struck on December 16, millions of Filipinos returned to shopping centers, public parks and churches after the September outbreak was significantly mitigated.

The typhoon killed more than 100 people and damaged or destroyed about 150,000 homes, and Governor Arthur Yap of Bohol, who was hit, said temporary shelter and water filtration to supplement the aid of the Philippine government. We asked foreign aid agencies to help provide the system. ..

“Today I refuse to believe that there is no Christmas spirit among our people. They are conservative Catholics. But it is clearly very muted. Overwhelming horror Yes, there were no gifts, no Christmas Eve dinner, none of them today, “Yap told The Associated Press.

Mr. Yap said he was pleased that many Filipinos were able to celebrate Christmas more safely after the number of cases of COVID-19 decreased, but “remember us.” I pleaded.

In Manila, which was not hit by a typhoon, Filipino Catholics were relieved to be able to return to church at Christmas, but only a small part of it was inside, worshipers wore masks and were safe with each other. I had to stand at a distance.

In South Korea, strict social distance rules are maintained, churches need to allow only a limited number of worshipers (70% of seats), and attendees need to be fully vaccinated. there was.

At Yeouido Full Gospel Church, the largest Protestant church in Seoul, thousands of masked worshipers sang hymns and prayed for the service to be broadcast online. Many churches across the country offered both face-to-face and online services.

South Korea has been working on a surge in infections and mortality since it significantly eased virus suppression in early November as part of its efforts to return to pre-pandemic normal conditions. The country was eventually forced to restore the strictest distance guidelines, such as a four-person limit for social gatherings and a curfew at 9 pm in restaurants and cafes.

Christmas celebrations were suppressed in much of India and more decorated than the crowds, as people feared a new wave of Omicron variants that could dominate the country in the coming weeks.

Authorities have reintroduced curfew and restrictions on gatherings of five or more people in big cities such as New Delhi and Mumbai. People attended the Midnight Mass in Mumbai and elsewhere, but only a few.

Christians make up just over 2% of India’s approximately 1.4 billion people.

In New Zealand, 95% of adults have been vaccinated at least once, making it one of the most vaccinated populations in the world. The only case of Omicron found is safely contained at the border.

As pandemics have spread around the world over the last two years, New Zealand has taken advantage of its isolation. Border control kept away the worst viruses. By Christmas this year, New Zealand had a population of 5.5 million and recorded 50 deaths.

But its success comes at a price. During this holiday season, some New Zealanders who lived and worked abroad were unable to return due to restrictions on the country’s controlled quarantine and quarantine programs, so some tables had empty chairs.

A traditional northern winter dining table-turkey and all trimmings-is common. However, kiwis also celebrate in antipodal ways, such as having a barbecue on the beach surrounded by native Pohutukawa trees that bloom only at Christmas.

At Scott Base in New Zealand in Antarctica, some New Zealanders enjoyed White Christmas. During the summer on a frozen continent, the sun never sets below the horizon, and in 24-hour sunlight, temperatures can be around 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit).

In the summer, about 200 people, including scientists, support staff, and defense personnel who provide communications and other services, pass through the base. Due to the pandemic this year, the number was reduced and all staff traveling to the continent had to be quarantined and tested for COVID-19 before departure.

Most Pacific island nations, whose health system may have been overwhelmed by the outbreak of COVID-19, were able to prevent the virus through strict border controls and high vaccination counts.

Outbreaks continue in Fiji, killing nearly 700 people. Currently, about 92% of the adult population is fully vaccinated, 97.7% are vaccinated at least once, and many religious countries have Christmas at traditional church worship and family gatherings. Celebrate.

In a Christmas message, Health Minister James Fong urged the Fijians to “celebrate wisely.”

In the remote state of Macuata, residents of four villages received special Christmas gifts. Electricity was connected to the village for the first time.

In his Christmas message, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison mentioned COVID-19 tolls.

“This pandemic continues to afflict us,” Morrison said. “Omicron variants are the latest challenge we have faced, but together, always together, and only together, we continue to move forward.”

Omicron variants are endemic in some states and are estimated to account for over 70% of all new cases in Queensland.

The heat of summer may have discouraged outdoor Christmas feasts in some places. Temperatures in Perth, Western Australia, were expected to reach 42 degrees Celsius on Saturday. This will be the hottest Christmas since the record began over a century ago.

On Christmas Eve, a student driver from the Northern Territory departed with a truck containing over $ 10,000 in Christmas ham, which was empty when it was discovered.

“This behavior can only be explained as something like a grinch,” said police detective Mark Brand.


Associated Press journalists Jim Gomez, Aaron Fabira, Jor Carpitan (Manila, Philippines). Kim Hyunjin from Seoul, South Korea. Ashok Sharma in New Delhi; Steve McMorran in Sydney contributed to this report.