French teachers to strike against “chaotic” COVID policies – Live | News on the coronavirus pandemic

Global cases of COVID-19 hit 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 January 9.

The figure represents a 55% increase from the previous seven days, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday, adding that the “huge spike” was due to the Omicron variant.

While the highly infectious strain causes less severe disease than the Delta variant, Tedros says Omicron remains a “dangerous virus”, especially for those who are unvaccinated.

The WHO chief’s comments came as Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hokestra announced he had tested positive for COVID-19 and teachers in France went on strike against the ‘chaotic’ virus strategy government for schools.

Here are the latest updates:

Victoria, Australia exempts more workers from quarantine rules

The Australian state of Victoria is exempting more workers from quarantine requirements for being close contacts.

The decision came amid pressure on supply chains and will apply to emergency services, education and transport personnel.

Australia’s COVID cases hit record high

Australia is reporting its highest number of cases since the start of the pandemic, registering more than 147,000 new cases on Thursday.

A total of 53 new deaths have also been reported, but the death rate during the Omicron wave is lower than previous outbreaks in Australia.

More than 92% of people over the age of 16 receive a double dose in the country.

The net number of new hospital admissions and people admitted to intensive care is at its highest level during the pandemic, but authorities say health systems can cope with the rise in cases.

Omicron will soon become a dominant variant in the Americas, says PAHO

The Pan American Health Organization says it expects omicron to become the predominant variant of the coronavirus in the Americas in the coming weeks.

“As delta continues to cause new infections in the Americas, based on current trends, omicron is poised to become the dominant strain in our region,” said Carissa Etienne, director of the agency known by her initials, PAHO.

The omicron variant, which spreads more easily, has been detected in 42 of the 56 countries and territories in the Americas.

WHO to discuss extension of global health emergency

With the help of an independent expert committee, the WHO will consider later today whether to extend a global public health emergency it has declared over the coronavirus.

The current “public health emergency of international concern” has been in place for almost two years now.

Whether or not the committee recommends declaring a coronavirus emergency would have little practical consequence.

However, many experts fear its end could send the wrong signal as cases rise across the world.

Australian Open crowds capped at 50%

Authorities say crowds at the Australian Open will be capped at 50 per cent capacity as COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions continue to rise in Melbourne.

Jaala Pulford, Minister of Tourism for the state of Victoria, said in a statement that face masks will also be compulsory at the opening Grand Slam of the year, which begins on Monday.

Spectators will be required to socially distance indoors, she added.

French teachers to strike against ‘chaotic’ COVID strategy

French teachers are on the verge of leaving work due to 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 students and the staff against infection.

“The exhaustion and exasperation of the entire education 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 total due to the incessant foot changes, unenforceable protocols and lack of proper tools to ensure that (the schools) can function properly.”

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

Unions said they expected many schools to be closed on Thursday and huge numbers of teachers – including around 75% in primary schools – to join the one-day strike.

Dutch Foreign Minister has COVID-19

Wopke Hoekstra, the Dutch foreign minister, said he had tested positive for COVID-19 and would 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 European Union foreign policy chief Joseph Borrel and Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes.

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

Read all the developments from January 12 here.

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