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France Limits U.K. Travel as Omicron Spreads

todayDecember 16, 2021

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We’re covering France’s ban on U.K. travel because of Omicron and European warnings to Russia.

A record-breaking surge of coronavirus cases in Britain, fueled by the Omicron variant, raised worries that France would soon face the same fate. The French government on Thursday banned nonessential travel to and from Britain and tightened testing requirements.

France’s prime minister, Jean Castex, said that “faced with the extremely rapid spread of the Omicron variant in the United Kingdom,” the government had decided to act. Starting Saturday, only those traveling for “urgent” reasons would be allowed to go.

France had already closed nightclubs for four weeks and tightened some rules in schools. President Emmanuel Macron has ruled out additional lockdowns.

The numbers: Britain reported 88,376 new cases on Thursday, a second consecutive daily record. England’s chief medical officer warned that further records were likely to be broken in the coming days. In some areas, Omicron case numbers are doubling faster than every two days.

After meeting with Ukraine’s president, European Union leaders were preparing a stern warning to Russia on Thursday about “massive consequences and severe costs” should Moscow start a new military operation against Ukraine, according to a draft communiqué.

The European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday said: “Any further aggressive acts against Ukraine will have massive costs for Russia.”

More than 100,000 Russian troops have been deployed to regions in the north, east and south of Ukraine, along with heavy artillery and tank units. There is no indication that Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, has decided to begin such an attack, and there is no consensus among Western officials and analysts about why he might want to do so now.

At a separate meeting on Thursday, NATO denounced the Russian military buildup but said nothing about providing the additional weaponry or troops Ukraine was seeking.

Threat: The U.S., E.U. and NATO have said that a new Russian incursion into Ukraine would be met with harsh sanctions, possibly including the abandonment of a favorite Kremlin project, the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany. Olaf Scholz, Germany’s new chancellor, warned of a “high price” for Russia.

The Japanese government plans to deploy missile launchers on Ishigaki, a small, subtropical island just 200 miles from Taiwan. The plans for the new missile installation reflect a drastic shift in Japan’s views on China.

Context: Years ago, Japan saw China primarily as an economic opportunity and not as a serious threat. The calculus has changed. Japanese politicians now express concerns about China’s power moves, including in Taiwan.

Quotable: Chosho Kiyuna, a retired farmer on Ishigaki, put it bluntly: “If there’s a war,” he said, “it will all be blown away.”

Asia pacific

For over a year, prominent women in India, including journalists, were reeled into an online scam, offering them a dream job at Harvard University. Who targeted them, and why, is a mystery.

As Lindsay Zoladz writes in The Times, “A bit of cultural flotsam from the last 25 years would suddenly drift back up to the top of our collective consciousness and spread wildly, demanding renewed attention in the context of the present.”

Beyond the past quarter-century, other projects helped shine a light on overlooked pieces of history. The documentary “Summer of Soul” introduced new viewers to the Harlem Cultural Festival, concerts performed by Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder and others in 1969 as the Black Power movement grew increasingly prominent.

“The lesson to be taken from all these reconsiderations is not necessarily how much wiser we are now,” Lindsay writes, “but how difficult it is to see the biases of the present moment.”

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