Globally, more than 75 countries have reported confirmed cases of the new variant. In Britain, where omicron cases are doubling every two to three days, the variant is expected to soon replace delta as the dominant strain in the country. Authorities in the 27-nation European Union say omicron will be the dominant variant in the bloc by mid-January.

Spiraling infections in Britain driven in part by the new omicron variant of the coronavirus rattled many in Europe on Thursday, fueling a familiar dread that tighter restrictions will scuttle holiday plans again this year.

Much remains unknown about omicron, but increasingly officials are warning that at the very least it appears more transmissible than the delta variant, which was already putting pressure on hospitals from the United States to the Netherlands. With so many questions outstanding, uncertainty reigned over how quickly and how severely to crack down on end-of-year travel and Christmas parties.

After the U.K. recorded the highest number of confirmed new COVID-19 infections Wednesday since the pandemic began, France announced Thursday that it would tighten entry rules for those coming from Britain.

In England, the chief medical officer urged people to limit who they see in the festive period — though there has been much debate about how much should be canceled. In the U.S., meanwhile, the White House insisted there was no need for a lockdown, despite signs that omicron was gaining ground there.

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