Start your day here: Steps to protect against omicron; an empty holiday Holy Land; Putin's big press conference

Published December 23, 2021 at 8:15 AM EST
A visitor walks in the Church of the Nativity, the traditional place of Christ's birth, in the biblical city of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday.
Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images
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AFP
A faithful visits the Church of the Nativity, the traditional place of Christ's birth, in the biblical city of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday. After a near-total pandemic lockdown last year, Bethlehem hoped for a joyous Christmas this year, but Israel closed again in November after a case of the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the virus was discovered.

Good morning,

Here's what we're following today:

Fighting off omicron: The virulent variant threatens to throw a wrench into holiday plans. These are the steps we can all take to protect ourselves and others.

An empty Holy Land: The little town of Bethlehem had hoped for a more joyful season this year, but the Holy Land is closed to international visitors for a second Christmas in a row due to the omicron variant.

Putin's marathon press conference: The Russian president's annual question-and-answer session can run for four hours or more. This year, with Russian troops at the Ukraine border, the world may pay closer attention.

🎧 Also on Up First, our daily podcast, he FDA authorizes the first antiviral pill to treat COVID-19 at home.

The Morning Edition live blog will take a break for the holidays, starting tomorrow. See you back here Jan. 3!

— The Morning Edition live blog team

(Rachel Treisman, Carol Ritchie and Chris Hopkins)