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2 of the world’s wealthiest countries shoot to the top of ‘very high’ risk travel list

By Maureen O’Hare, CNN

As Omicron grips the world, the only person enjoying frictionless global travel this Christmas is Santa, thanks to his very well-ventilated sleigh.

CNN Travel wishes you happy holidays if you’re celebrating and for better times ahead for those missing loved ones this year.

Here are the biggest developments in travel this week.

Omicron is hammering holiday travel

The Omicron variant is sweeping the globe, wreaking havoc on holiday plans at the eleventh hour. In the UK, which has logged a record number of new cases this week, even the Queen has had to switch up her Christmas tradition.

In the US, thousands of travelers got some very bad news on Thursday evening: Their Christmas Eve flights had been canceled. Delta and United Airlines cited Omicron as a cause of the disruptions. Many Australians were in the same situation. By Friday, thousands of flights were canceled globally.

Cities around the world are canceling their New Year’s celebrations, although plenty are still going ahead.

Ski season is soldiering on, under straitened circumstances, so if you have a fondness for fondue, here’s our guide to the best ski resorts. Be sure to keep an eye on restrictions before booking.

Destinations climbing to the top of the CDC’s risk list

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has added eight new destinations to its highest-risk category for travel. They include Finland, Lebanon and the country that was the world’s second most-visited nation before Covid came along.

The microstates of Monaco and San Marino — two of the world’s wealthiest countries — shot straight up to the highest-risk Level 4 on Monday, having previously been categorized “Unknown.”

Things are no better at sea. Nearly 50 people tested positive for coronavirus on the world’s largest cruise ship during a weeklong Caribbean cruise this month, and two ships this week reported Covid cases and missed ports of call.

There is some good news for southern Africa this week. The US plans to lift travel restrictions on eight countries in the region that were imposed after Omicron was discovered in South Africa in late November.

The US is cracking down

Omicron is now the dominant variant in the US, and a lot of the nation’s big tourist cities, including Washington and Philadelphia, are introducing indoor vaccine or testing mandates. Here’s what you need to know.

Federal authorities are fed up with unruly passengers and announced this week that disruptive travelers could now lose TSA PreCheck credentials.

And, in the final piece of not-so-good news for Americans, the price of a US passport is about to soar.

Asia-Pacific is cautious

Coronavirus has messed with China’s biggest holiday for the third year in a row. The country’s National Health Commission has advised residents in any city with confirmed Covid cases against traveling during February’s Lunar New Year and Spring Festival holiday.

Thailand has suspended its quarantine-free travel pass, with no word on when it might be reinstated, while New Zealand has delayed its border reopening from January 17 to the end of February.

The landlocked nation of Laos, however, will begin the first phase of its reopening on January 1, with the whole country expected to be open for business by July 1, 2022. Great news for fans of ornate Buddhist temples, French colonial architecture and epic mountain landscapes.

Strike these spots off your 2022 bucket list

Plenty of the most popular tourist destinations are expected to reopen to travelers next year, but there are still places that will be off-limits.

Some are getting spruced up or extended to make them better than ever when they do welcome guests, but for others it’s a permanent farewell.

We’re talking Hong Kong’s iconic Peak Tram, Hawaii’s 3,922-step Haiku Stairs and London’s newest, and most derided, major tourist attraction.

And now for Christmas feasts

Even when we can’t travel to be together, we can still share food traditions. From Mexico to France, here’s a look at how nations around the world feast at Christmas. We hope you’re diving into something delicious.

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™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Forrest Brown, Tamara Hardingham-Gill, Lilit Marcus, Sheena McKenzie, Andy Rose, Francesca Street and Yong Xiong contributed to this report. Top image: Monaco’s natural harbor (Photo by Adobe Stock)

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