Omicron thwarts Grammys, Sundance amid virus wave

Singer and songwriter Billie Eilish arrives at the Variety 2021 Music Hitmakers Brunch presented by Peacock / Girls5Eva at City Market Social in Los Angeles, California on December 4. AFP

The Grammy Music Awards and famed Sundance Film Festival fell victim to Omicron’s relentless march on Wednesday, as the variant’s rise to prominence accelerated in Europe.

Citing “uncertainty” surrounding the new variant of the coronavirus, Recording Academy, the organization behind the Grammys, has postponed music awards indefinitely, while Sundance organizers have said the festival will go virtual with numbers of infections reaching new heights.

“Holding the show on Jan. 31 is just too risky,” a Recording Academy statement said, adding that it would announce a postponed date “soon.”

“The health and safety of members of our music community, the live audience and the hundreds of people who work tirelessly to produce our show remain our top priority. “

A class of pop stalwarts and beginners including Justin Bieber, Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo were among the main nominees for the 64th annual show, along with Jon Batiste, the jazz and R&B artist, television personality and chef de orchestra with the most nominations with 11.

Last spring’s show was the first Grammy in the Pandemic Era, and was a more TV-friendly, socially distanced cabaret-esque show that featured a lot of performances.

Those awards were postponed to March 14 after the original date was postponed during the coronavirus case surge last winter.

The 2022 edition was set to see a return to the usual arena-style celebration at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

The Sundance Film Festival is held annually in the state of Utah, in the western United States, and was planning a hybrid format later this month, featuring physical events with protocols of strict health and virtual screenings.

“Despite the most ambitious protocols, the Omicron variant with its surprisingly high rates of transmissibility pushes the boundaries of health security, travel and other infrastructure across the country,” organizers said in a statement.

“And so, today we are announcing: In-person elements of the Utah Festival will go live this year.” “

Co-founded by Robert Redford, Sundance showcases the most popular independent films, art and documentaries of the coming year.

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(Left to right) Actors Daniel Durant, Marlee Matlin, writer / director Sian Heder, actors Troy Kotsur and Emilia Jones attend the Sundance Film Festival Award winning CODA photoshoot at the London Hotel in West Hollywood, Calif., July 30. AFP

Among the films selected this year will be jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy, a documentary assembled from more than two decades of footage shot by West’s longtime friend Clarence “Coodie” Simmons.

The 2022 Sundance Film Festival runs from January 20 to 30.

The highly mutated Omicron variant, the most transmissible to date, accounted for about 95% of cases in the United States during the week ending January 1.

According to the latest CDC figures, cases in the United States stand at nearly 500,000 per day, with an increase in new hospitalizations.

And in the UK, official data shows that one in 15 people in England was infected with the virus in the last week of 2021.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said travel restrictions tightened last month to contain the new strain are now ineffective, and his government has removed the need for visitors to undergo pre-departure testing and self-quarantine on arrival until they are negative.

The Italian government, meanwhile, said on Wednesday it would make the Covid-19 vaccination mandatory from February 15 for all people over 50 – nearly half of its population – in its attempt to fight against the upsurge in infections.

The new decree requires people over 50 who are not working to be vaccinated and those who are working to obtain a vaccination pass – which effectively covers all people over 50.

France set a record for new Covid cases over a 24-hour period on Wednesday, according to the latest official figures, with more than 332,000 additional infections recorded.

It was the first time that French cases have exceeded 300,000, shattering the previous record set on Tuesday when 271,686 new Covid cases were recorded.

The government is currently debating replacing the current health pass – which contains proof of vaccination, a negative test or a recent recovery – with a “vaccine pass” which only perfectly vaccinated people can claim.

President Emmanuel Macron has warned that the government will press those who continue to refuse the Covid shots.

“As for the unvaccinated, I really want to piss them off,” he said. About five million people in France are still not vaccinated.

As Omicron quickly spread around the world and triggered containment measures, death and hospitalization rates have been lower around the world.


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