Patients wait to be tested for the novel coronavirus Covid-19 in Paris on December 23, 2021. (Photo by AFP)
Europe has recorded more than 100 million COVID-19 cases, over a third of all coronavirus infections worldwide, as the Omicron variant spreads rapidly across the continent.
The tally compiled by AFP on Saturday showed that the European region, including 52 countries and territories from the Atlantic coast to Russia, has recorded 100,074,753 infections of the deadly virus over the past two years.
The figure is equivalent to more than a third of the 288,279,803 cases declared worldwide since the outbreak of the pandemic in late 2019.
More than 4.9 million cases have been reported in Europe over the past seven days, with 17 out of 52 countries or territories beating their previous record of most cases in a single week.
The AFP tally showed that Europe has once again become the pandemicís epicenter in recent months as the continent is struggling to rein in a surge of the highly transmissible Omicron strain of the virus.
France registered more than one million new cases in a week, which is equivalent to 10 percent of the entire cases it has announced since the start of the pandemic.
The countries that have so far reported the highest ratio of infections per 100,000 inhabitants in the world were all in Europe, as official figures showed, with Denmark scoring worst with 2,045 cases, followed by Cyprus with 1,969 and Ireland with 1,964.
France has also been affected by the dominant Omicron variant, joining other European countries like the United Kingdom and Portugal with surging case numbers over the past few days.
Coronavirus-related deaths are, however, decreasing in Europe, which has recorded on average 3,413 deaths a day over the past week - a seven percent drop from the previous week.
New Year celebrations dampened by COVID restrictions
Media reports said most of the New Year festivities and events were cancelled or scaled down in major world cities as Omicron continues to rapidly spread across the globe despite restrictions.
Paris called off its fireworks show and city officials cancelled events planned on the Champs-Elysees following the advice of a scientific panel that declared mass gatherings would be too risky.
London relegated fireworks display to television and New York City scaled down its famous ball drop celebration in Times Square.
The illuminated ball slid down its pole at midnight in Times Square while only 15,000 people were allowed into the official viewing area.
In Berlin, police urged people not to gather near the Brandenburg Gate, where a concert was staged without a live audience.
In the Netherlands, where outside groupings of more than four people are banned, police dispersed several thousand people who had defiantly gathered at Amsterdamís central Dam Square.
People in Madrid queued for hours to get into the main Puerta del Sol square where only 7,000 people were allowed after going through multiple security checkpoints. The venue traditionally hosts some 20,000 spectators.
In Asia, events were scaled back or cancelled, such as with the traditional fireworks over the Petronas Towers in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.
A traditional midnight bell-ringing ceremony was cancelled for the second year in South Korea. New Yearís festivities were banned in the Shibuya entertainment district in the Japanese capital of Tokyo and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida took to YouTube to urge people to wear masks and limit numbers at parties.
China, where the coronavirus was first reported in late 2019, was on high alert, with the city of Xiían under lockdown and New Year events in other cities cancelled.