Tue. Jan 18th, 2022

WHO says 15 million people tested positive for COVID-19 last week, by far the most cases reported in a seven-day period.

Global COVID-19 infections reached a record high last week, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), with 15 million people testing positive for the coronavirus in the seven days to 9 January.

The figure indicates a 55 percent increase from the previous seven days, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO, said on Wednesday, adding that the “big increase” is driven by the Omicron variant.

While the highly contagious strain causes less serious diseases than the Delta variant, Tedros said the Omicron remains a “dangerous virus”, especially for those who have not been vaccinated.

The WHO chief’s comment came when Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hokestra announced that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and teachers in France launched a strike over the government’s “chaotic” virus strategy for schools.

Here are the latest updates:

Australian Open crowd limited to 50 per cent

Authorities say crowds at the Australian Open will be limited to 50 per cent capacity as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Melbourne continue to increase.

Victoria State Tourism Minister Jaala Pulford said in a statement that face masks will also be mandatory at the opening of this year’s Grand Slam, which starts on Monday.

Spectators will be expected to distance themselves socially while indoors, she added.

French teachers to crack down on ‘chaotic’ COVID strategy

French teachers plan to step down en masse from what they say is the government’s failure to adopt a coherent policy for schools to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, or to properly protect pupils and staff from infection to protect.

“The exhaustion and outrage of the entire educational community has reached an unprecedented level,” eleven unions said in a joint statement.

“The responsibility of the minister and the government in this chaotic situation is totally due to incessant changes of foundation, unworkable protocols and the lack of appropriate tools to ensure that (schools) can function properly.”

The strike comes as teachers, parents and school administrators struggle to keep up with new test rules, which were announced before the end of the Christmas holidays but have changed twice since criticism.

Trade unions said they expected many schools to be closed on Thursday and that very large numbers of teachers – including about 75 percent in primary schools – would join the one-day strike.

Dutch Foreign Minister has COVID-19

Wopke Hoekstra, the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, says he has tested positive for COVID-19 and will be quarantined at home for the next few days.

He made the announcement on Twitter.

Hoekstra, who was only sworn in on Monday, was in Brussels on Tuesday where he met with the European Union’s head of foreign policy, Joseph Borrel, and the Belgian foreign minister, Sophie Wilmes.

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s ongoing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Zaheena Rasheed in Male, Maldives.

For key developments from yesterday, 12 January, go here.

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